Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Vocabulary building: "The Wrong Stuff"

I just finished reading "The Wrong Stuff: The Extraordinary Saga of Randy 'Duke' Cunningham, the Most Corrupt Congressman Ever Caught," by Marcus Stern, Jerry Kammer, Dean Calbreath, and George E. Condon, Jr.

Here are some phrases I picked up from my reading:

1. Bribe menu: A list of bribe amounts and corresponding earmarks that Cunningham wrote on his Congressional stationery for co-conspirator Mitchell Wade's benefit over lunch at Georgetown's Daily Grill. It was the most damning piece of evidence introduced at Cunningham's trial.

2. Favor factories: Jack Abramoff's name for the Congressional Appropriations Committees.

3. Lifestyle audit: Investigative reporter Marcus Stearn's phrase for examining congressmen for impropriety by checking for upgrades in their lifestyles (e.g. new homes, expensive trips, luxury goods).

yellow alert - noun

An elevated state of alertness on the television show "Star Trek" and in the United States.

first responder - noun

A biodegradable compound used to contain environmental disasters, natural catastrophes, and other large-scale threats to public health.

zealot - noun

1. A crazy liberal.

2. An earnest conservative.

appropriation – noun

(Latin "made one's own.") A return on a campaign contributor's investment.

architect – noun

Someone who designs ambitious projects that satisfy his own idiosyncratic tastes but offend popular sentiment.

COMMENT: The Iraq war architects: Where are they now?

Monday, July 30, 2007

quid pro quo – noun

(Latin "one thing in return for another.") A kindness or gift bestowed on another to initiate a circle of generosity.

ethics – noun

A system of rhetorical rules governing public discourse about personal conduct.

counterinsurgency – noun

A program or strategy for losing a guerilla war more slowly than by using conventional military methods.

Friday, July 27, 2007


1. I'm gone for the weekend. Back on Monday.

2. Harper's Magazine has hired me for their fall internship. I will be working on the Index, among other things. Feel free to e-mail eye-popping statistics to me after Labor Day.

war president – noun

1. President. The president under the aspect of his most basic constitutional role. (See U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 2).

2. A president who seeks to boost his approval ratings, power, and/or historical legacy.

3. A unpopular president.

I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign-policy matters with war on my mind. Again, I wish it wasn't true, but it is true. And the American people need to know they got a president who sees the world the way it is. And I see dangers that exist, and it's important for us to deal with them.

contempt – noun

1. Civil disobedience against activist judges or lawmakers.

2. The regard that the branches of government hold for each other and for the public.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

suspect - noun

Someone whose guilt for a crime awaits certification.

coalition – noun (reprise)

A unilaterally cobbled, multilateral force.

netroots - noun

Abbr. "Internet grassroots." An Internet role-playing game in which participants assume the identities of political activists.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

photo op - noun

Abbr. "Photo opportunity." The implementation of a governmental policy.

politicize - verb

1. To cite facts, data, or testimony.

2. To fulfill the duties of one's office.

cafe - noun

1. A nursery; a daycare center.

2. Cheap office space.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I'm still on the road. Things will return to normal on Wednesday.

Friday, July 20, 2007

withdrawal - noun

Military An early pullout to avoid the potential long-term consequences of wargasm.

peace - noun

1. A fixation of the pre-9/11 mindset.

2. A period of low economic output.

3. A trough in the cable-news ratings.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

flip-flop - noun

The political sin of changing one's mind on the basis of reasons or evidence.

When the facts change, I change my mind - what do you do, sir?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

massage - noun

Anal sex.

USAGE: It was only a massage.

Please forgive my accuser. He is revealing the deception and sensuality that was in my life. Those sins, and others, need to be dealt with harshly. So, forgive him and, actually, thank God for him.

heckuva - adjective

Slang Abominable, loathsome, execrable.

subpoena - noun

(Latin "under penalty") Law A writ summoning a witness to testify under penalty of harsh public criticism.

foreign aid - noun

Investment in high-end real estate development in the third world.

study group - noun

An assembly convened for the joint review of complex data to be rehashed in a written examination and then forgotten.

Monday, July 16, 2007

general - noun

1. A lobbyist for the Department of Defense.

2. A military spokesperson.

COMMENT: Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, our newly named war czar, sees his first combat:

As the debate began Tuesday, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, and his new Iraq coordinator, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, arrived on Capitol Hill to lobby senators, while Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates fielded phone calls from lawmakers in both parties. The officials were, effectively, previewing a progress report to be delivered to Congress by week’s end.

safety net - noun

Protective netting removed to make the trapeze show of middle-class life more interesting to watch.

cost-plus - adjective

Paid by blank check.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007


Posting will be light to non-existent until July 24th, while I'm on the road (again).

Diversion: The Shins play the streets of Paris

homeland – noun

A nation with delusions of moral, political and racial grandeur.

decider – noun

A person who takes credit for making decisions from sets of options stacked by other people.

COMMENT: Choose from the following options on what to do in Iraq:

(1) Fight the enemy there, so we don't face him here.

(2) Cut and run.

(3) Surrender.

(4) Abandon the troops.

(5) Embolden America's enemies.

If you chose (1), you are a decider.

executive privilege - noun

The right of the executive branch to censor itself for obscene content.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Analysis: "fair and balanced"

In today's press conference, President Bush described the Libby commutation as "a fair and balanced decision." (See video).

That prompted me to search how often Bush and other administration officials have used the Fox News slogan.

As it turns out, the phrase is quite popular with the Bush administration for describing their own policy views on legal or judicial matters. It serves as their basic talking point about matters of justice.

For example, a Google search of "fair and balanced" on the White House website gets 49 hits, mostly about tort reform, campaign finance reform, and immigration reform.

Here's President Bush on tort reform:

And the Senate needs to get out for the junk lawsuits that make it hard to do business. It's important that we have a judicial system that's fair and balanced. Class action lawsuits oftentimes are not fair and balanced. After all, the money goes to the lawyers and not to the people who got hurt. We need a system that's fair and balanced, and the Senate needs to act on that.

The DoD's website offers 23 hits. Many concern the military's administration of justice.

For example, Donald Rumsfeld said to Tim Russert about international worries concerning our military tribunals:

We have a reputation for being fair and balanced and measured in what we do.

And the Department of Labor sets overtime-pay standards and reaches workers-compensation settlements that are "fair and balanced."

And so on.

In sum, the Bush Administration applies the standards of Fox News to law and justice: it has made them "fair and balanced."

privacy - noun (reprise)

The right to hide something from authorities.

balanced – adjective

Slanted to correct imagined bias.

Photo: "Child Advocate"

Click to enlarge.

refugee – noun

An evacuee of color.


"I trust these people," says Lila Ashmore, a magazine editor and grandmother of two.

-- USA TODAY, Sept. 5, 2005.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

earmark - noun (reprise)

Public financing for Congressional election campaigns.

sovereignty - noun

The authority of a state to make its own citizens miserable without outside interference.

debate - verb, noun

1. v. To recite talking points.

2. n. A formal contest in which competitors exchange recitations and are scored for style.

As scholars and thinkers, you are contributing to a nationwide debate about the direction of the war on terror. A vigorous debate is healthy for our country, it really is, and I welcome the debate. It's one of the true hallmarks of a free society, where people can get up and express their beliefs in open forum. Yet five years into this war, there is one principle of which every member of every party should be able to agree on -- in other words, after all the debate, there is one thing we all ought to be able to agree on, and that is: We've got to fight the terrorists overseas, so we don't have to face them here at home again.

-- President Bush to members of the American Enterprise Institute, February 15, 2007 (Source)

evildoer - noun

An archvillain who can only be defeated by a president granted superpowers.

hero - noun

A telegenic person who becomes the protagonist in a media narrative about individual courage.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

signatory - adjective

Bound by signed agreement for the duration of the current administration.

binding - adjective

Seemingly in one's interest.

self-determination - noun

The ability to find a spot in the global marketplace.

peacekeeper - noun

A passive observer of attrocities.

reality-based - adjective

Grounded in the falsification of popular opinion and the frustration of cherished ideals.

human rights - noun

1. The negotiable requests of human dignity.

2. Fundamental freedoms that are forgotten when not needed and ignored when needed.

3. Basic liberties whose public proclamation and private violation are essential to national security.

This debate is occurring because of the Supreme Court's ruling that said that we must conduct ourselves under the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. And that Common Article 3 says there will be no outrages upon human dignity. That's, like, very vague. What does that mean? "Outrages upon human dignity." That's a statement that is, uh, wide open to interpretation.— George W. Bush

Sunday, July 8, 2007

reconstruction - noun

A lull between destructions.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

good cause – noun

1. A celebrity's new year's resolution.

2. A publicity stunt.

promise – verb

1. To rebuff, to brush off.

2. To commit to giving something due consideration.

untidy – adjective

1. Anarchic, rampageous, contumacious.

2. Violent, murderous, bloody.

Friday, July 6, 2007

charity - noun

1. An excuse for hosting a black-tie dinner.

2. The purchase of goodwill.

deregulate - verb

To permit companies to do publicly what they would otherwise do in secret.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

federal prosecutor - noun

Director of opposition research for a political party.

commute - verb

To correct the misapplication of sentencing guidelines to the ruling class.

awareness bracelet - noun

1. A wrist accessory that signifies one is above accessorizing.

2. Compassion that is cheap, plastic, disposable, and purchasable at most convenience stores.

COMMENT: The Awareness Depot has Katrina bracelets for $.99. (10% goes to disaster relief.)

oppo research - noun

Abbr. "Opposition research." Training for civil service.

Monday, July 2, 2007

bias – noun

Disagreement with one's own viewpoint.

resign – verb (reprise)

Government. To explore opportunities in the private sector.

Review: the month of June

June saw 87 definitions: 84 new terms and three reprises.

After adding June's definitions to May's, the Terrorist's Dictionary has 128 entries for 125 terms.

There are still no entries under K, X, Y, and Z. Suggestions?

The month of June ...


abstinence – noun

abstinence-only – adjective

accounting – noun

anchor – noun

asymmetric – adjective

audit – noun

authentic – noun


bipartisan – adjective

black site – noun

blowback – noun


campaign contribution – noun

centrist – adjective

coalition – noun

column – noun

conflict of interest – noun

constitutional – adjective


democracy – noun

diplomacy – noun

duct tape – noun


enduring – adjective

ethanol – noun


faith-based – adjective

family man – noun

free trade – noun


gambling – noun

ghost detainee – noun

global posture – noun


high value target – noun

humane – adjective


IED – noun

illegal – adjective

illegal combatant – noun

illegal combatant – noun (reprise)

illegal combatant – noun (reprise)

intelligence – noun

interventionism – noun

investigate – verb


journalist – noun


legal counsel – noun

liberate – noun


mandate – noun

martyr – noun

moral clarity – noun


name – verb

no-bid contract – noun

nonfiction – noun


occupation – noun

op-ed – noun

ownership society – noun


patience – noun

patriotic – adjective

plan B – noun

political capital – noun

populist – adjective, noun

prayer – noun

precision-guided – adjective

preemption – noun

press conference – noun

profiteer – noun

progress – noun

protest – noun

proxy detention – noun

psy-ops – noun

pundit – noun


(al) Qaeda – noun


realism – noun

rebrand – verb

redact – verb

regime change – noun

rule of law – noun


security mom – noun

signing statement – noun

spokesperson – noun

surge – noun

sustainable development – noun


talking point – noun

theocon – noun

think tank – noun

tort reform – noun

torture – noun

torture – noun (reprise)

torture memo – noun

transparency – noun


unitary executive – noun


vet – verb


wartime supplemental – noun

WMD – noun

[May's definitions]

Sunday, July 1, 2007

hedge fund – noun

A charitable trust that pairs super-wealthy families with ambitious brokers seeking to be adopted.

COMMENT: An adopted broker becomes a three-and-thirty heir.