Friday, February 27, 2015

Write words and right words

It really is
What you say


THE INTENT OF THIS RANT was to take local and national talking heads - so-called reporters, news readers (tv anchors), and editors to task for so cavalierly abusing the language.

This faux pas that set me off was a local's use of two words together: casualty and injured person.

It would have been OK if the pseudo-reporter had said: The injured person was a casualty of the collision, but she didn't. The way it was spoken told listeners that the speaker failed to realize the words are synonyms.

But as often happens, I got sidetracked. (It happens more when I use my unabridged than when I use online dictionaries, but it happens still.)

I suppose I used a search engine to confirm what I already knew, that "casualty" and "injured" were synonyms; I ended up on Merriam-Webster Online. Mind I've got this site bookmarked, but it was hot today (80s) and I felt lazy.

IN ANY EVENT, I ended up at

All of a sudden I didn't care if someone reported an accident east of 100 and first street (vs. the correct 100-first street - sans the "and"). It didn't bother me (as much) when I hear someone report that a building was "robbed" when in fact it was "burglarized."

I had word - mind - games to play thanks to M-W.

Florida, where I happily reside, is getting rid of some of the "Teach To Test" tests to which I say "Bravo!" Some good teachers were driven away from the profession because they had to "teach for tests" rather than teach to inculcate a love of learning. My Number One (eldest) son gave up the classroom for a gun and badge because of the focus on tests. (It's probably safer.)

We had tests in my day, too, but the tests were classroom tests. Since classroom grades were based on both tests and classroom participation, students who did poorly in one area might shine in the other.

"He died as the result of a fatal gunshot wound." Yep, and he was shot and killed, too.

When the Air Force and I parted company - back when Hector was a pup - my second civilian job was as a bank boy at the local daily newspaper. (My first civilian job was as a ward clerk/go'fer at a hospital out in the sticks - two buses and a long hike on Shank's Mare.)

Back in the day, most newspaper writers knew the language and used it correctly. Nary a Wm. Frank Buckley Junior, Hubert Horatio Humphrey, or Abba Eban (originally Aubrey Solomon Meir Eban) perhaps, but literate. Even the Sports guys, albeit none could match prose of Howard Tell it like it is Cossell nee' Cohen, actually could communicate in "plain English."

My Spouse, who speaks English as a fourth language, cringes when she hears "most unique." It's a family competition to see who can react fastest to that and similar grammatical "fox paws." I consider it unfortunate that my daughter, an English teacher, follows the Fowlers while I remain committed to GPO/Harvard/U Chicago rules. She sometimes fractures phrases and splits infinities, but at least she knows that "unique" cannot be modified

As for Winnie Churchill's (in)famous remark disparaging "gooder grammar"" “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.” , he famously let his ego get in the way and committed not one but two errors my grammar school teachers never would allow to pass sans critical comment.

Friday, February 13, 2015


DoJ planning penalties
For banks, not bankers



Justice Department Is Seeking Felony Pleas by Big Banks in Foreign Currency Inquiry

ACCORDING TO A NUMBER of on-line sites, The Justice Department (DoJ) is pushing some of the biggest banks on Wall Street — including, for the first time in decades, American institutions — to plead guilty to criminal charges that they manipulated the prices of foreign currencies.


The bank executives will cry crocodile tears and agree to pay big fines and to cease doing what they did (until the next time they are caught), knowing that nothing will happen to the them or their rewards.

The banks - read depositors and shareholders - will pay whatever fine DoJ levies and the executives will go on with their business as usual. And get hefty End of Year bonuses in the bargain.

Only the little guy suffers.

Nothing will change in the Executive Suites until DoJ starts seeking long jail terms for the executives on whose watch the shenanigans occurred.

Even a few years at the Florida resort prisons in Marianna or Pensacola would help convince others who think they are above the law to consider the penalties before they act - or fail to act.

The banks that have DoJ asking for mea culpas are Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Citigroup.

Meanwhile, in New York, state agencies are taking a close look at Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, BNP Paribas, and Société Générale.

The article on the Dealbook site suggests that the executives facing DoJ ire are planning to throw midlevel employees to the wolves, while in New York, the currency case is expected to ensnare traders but not top-level executives. - again, the small, expendable working stiff.

According to Reuters, Last November, regulators fined six major banks a total of $4.3 billion for failing to stop traders from trying to manipulate the foreign exchange market, following a yearlong global investigation.

Fined the banks, NOT the executives who control the banks.

As long as the executives only have to shell out other people's money, and suffer no loss to their finances or freedom, nothing will change. It must be nice to be immune to penalties that plague other folks like us.

Not only are bank protected, but executives of ALL major companies - car manufacturers and credit rating companies (e.g., Standard and Poor), for example - seem to escape sans any personal penalties.

Executives of smaller organizations, such as Bernard Madoff, go to jail; Martha Stewart went to jail.

Unlike the president of Toyota, Ponzi schemers such as Madoff only ruin people's lives; Toyota's "sticking gas pedal" cost people their lives.

Is justice perverted by money, power?

(If you answered "No," I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

If Obama has his way

Americans to fight
Muslims' civil war?


ELECTED IN PART ON A PROMISE to extract U.S. troops from foreign wars, the incumbent at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is pushing to send U.S. troops to fight Muslims in the Middle East.

It's stupid.

It's a lose-lose situation.

And POTUS is insisting that Congress share the blame for his folly.

It's one thing to supply weaponry to U.S. allies - that does NOT mean anyone on the ground in Syria/Lebanon - but it is another matter entirely to put "boots on the ground."

REMEMBER AFGHANISTAN? Apparently POTUS is too politically and militarily naïve to know what happened to the weapons the U.S. provided the Taliban to oust the Soviets. Those weapons did their job on the Russians, and then the Taliban turned the weapons on us - and still uses them today to kill U.S. soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan.

Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás was correct

Jordan, to its credit, is fighting Daesh, a/k/a ISIL or ISIS or simply Islamist State, but it seems to be the ONLY Arab/Muslim country to be doing anything against the Islamic crazies.

Egypt has its military hands full dealing with Hamas and Gaza.

It is a given that as important as air power has proven to be, it cannot replace infantry when it comes to taking and holding territory. Ditto for sea power; the navies can pulverize targets with their missiles, but they can't hold a position.

Rather than send U.S. troops to battle Daesh on the ground, the nations that OUGHT to be sending troops are those states who are members of the Arab League.

These are the nations most threatened by Daesh. The League has 23 members

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has 57 member states, including the 23 Arab League members.

Afghanistan Albania Algeria (AL) Azerbaijan Bahrain (AL)
Bangladesh Benin Brunei Burkina Faso Cameroon
Chad Comoros (AL) Djibouti (AL) Egypt (AL) Gabon
Gambia, The Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Indonesia
Iran Iraq (AL) Ivory Coast Jordan (AL) Kazakhstan
Kuwait (AL) Kyrgyzstan Lebanon (AL) Libya (AL) Malaysia
Maldives Mali Mauritania (AL) Morocco (AL) Mozambique
Niger Nigeria Oman (AL) Pakistan Palestine Auth. (AL)
Qatar (AL) Saudi Arabia (AL) Senegal Sierra Leone Somalia (AL)
Sudan (AL) Suriname Syria (AL) Tajikistan Togo
Tunisia (AL) Turkey Turkmenistan Uganda UAE (AL)
Uzbekistan Yemen (AL)
(AL) denotes a member of the Arab League

Admittedly Daesh IS a threat to North America but it is NOT the job of the U.S. military to once again go into foreign combat for a people who will turn against us.

Let members of the Islamist organizations - the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League - put boots on the ground. (Iran already HAS boots on the ground fighting alongside Daesh in Syria and Hezbollah in Syria's Lebanon province. Turkey, like Iran, cannot be expected to act against Daesh since indications are that it tacitly supports the organization.

Israel must stay out of the intra-Islam conflict; for it, like the U.S., would be a lose-lose situation, even if its sympathies lie with neighbors Jordan and Egypt.

Obama - and any Senator and Representative who goes along with POTUS - is a fool to think that U.S. boots on the ground will do anything other than increase headstones in our military cemeteries.

If we MUST have a presence in the region, let it be U.S. light weapons and medical supplies. Jordan, Egypt (which has its own internal problems), Saudia all have arsenals of U.S. provided weaponry; that should be sufficient to counter Daesh.

I am not an isolationist, but this intra-Islam war is, unlike the World Wars, no place to send U.S. troops.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Forget Waldo, where's HIPAA?

Insurance companies place
Customer information at risk


IN A NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE heded "Anthem Hacking Points to Security Vulnerability of Health Care Industry" we learn that The cyber attack on Anthem, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, points to the vulnerability of health care companies, which security specialists say are behind other industries in protecting sensitive personal information.

Where are the largest databases of Americans' personal information outside of government computers? Health care providers.

Now, with all tax-paying Americans obliged to have health insurance else face a tax penalty, information on all tax-paying Americans can be found in one or another insurer's database.


HIPAA, a/k/a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is supposed to have rules in place to protect patients' personal information, and although the protection is focused on medical records, all patient-related information - and that includes Social Security numbers, addresses, dates of birth, is included in the mandate.

Good grief; many medical practitioners and business won't even send or accept emails due to HIPAA penalty paranoia. (Faxes are OK, despite the fact that anyone passing by the fax machine can read incoming and outgoing information left lying in the area. Seems Dilbertian to this scrivener.)

Yet, hackers - Chinese if the Times article is to be believed - gained access to up to 80 million records that included Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses, email, employment information, and income data for customers and employees, including its own chief executive.

I confess to being amused by the fact that Anthem's "own chief executive" was among the victims. Perhaps this executive will lead the way to find means to secure health care information - for Anthem and for other companies.

Apparently, Anthem and other health care companies had become increasingly aware of the criminal value of the information they have, in light of the large cyber attacks against financial service companies like JPMorgan Chase or retailers like Target according to Thomas Miller, Anthem’s chief information officer.

That, of course, begs the question: If "Anthem and other health care companies had become increasingly aware of the criminal value of the information they have" why didn't they aggressively work to protect that information?

According to Miller, Anthem was actively considering encrypting its internal database as well as taking other steps to improve its security.

Katherine Keefe, a global focus group leader for breach response services at Beazley, which underwrites cyber liability policies, said health care companies were attractive targets to hackers because the information health providers maintain about consumers tended to be more valuable on the black market than credit card information stolen from on a retailer.

The problem at Anthem, and based on the Times' piece, is that while executives apparently KNOW corporate databases are vulnerable, they are dragging their heels in actually remediating the vulnerabilities. Perhaps if more executives had their information compromised they would go from "considering" action to "doing" something to protect their, and their clients', information.

Monday, February 9, 2015

U.S. casualty

Price of war


ACCORDING TO DAESH (ISIS/ISIL), KAYLA JEAN MUELLE, the 26-year-old U.S. citizen 26-year-old American aid worker died when the building she was being held in by Daesh was struck by Jordanian aircraft, according to the SITE intelligence group.

Assuming the story is true, Ms. Muelle is fortunate that she died in the bombing rather than at the hands of Daesh which has taken to burning its victims alive.

While I offer condolences to those close to her, I would remind everyone, particularly other volunteers, that this is a war zone and protection cannot be guaranteed by any source.

She should not have been in Syria, not matter how concerned she was for the Syrians on any side of the intra-Muslim war.

IF ANY U.S. CITIZEN WANTS TO AID OTHERS, let that citizen start at home - in their own community and when all aid needs are satisfied there, then the citizen's state, then the greater U.S.

Beyond any doubt there are U.S. citizens and both legal and illegal - sorry, "undocumented" - aliens who need succor as much as anyone in a war zone.

IN THEORY there is no U.S. presence on the ground in Syria or it's province, Lebanon, so U.S. aid workers and "reporters" can expect NO assistance from the U.S.

It's been proven, all too many times, that the U.S. is not able to "extract" (rescue) its people from the hands of Muslim terrorists - and in Syria, it's hard to know who is a terrorist: Hezbollah, Daesh, the unaffiliated rebels, or the government.

MEANWHILE, IGNORING LESSONS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN LEARNED IN AFGHANISTAN the fools in Washington are sending weapons to combatants in Syria .

Doesn't ANYONE remember how the U.S. supplied the Taliban weapons for their fight with the Russians? Are the denizens within the Beltway totally unaware of the absolute accuracy of Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás who said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (or words to that effect).

What is going on in Syria, Iran/Iraq, and about to break out elsewhere (Turkey) is anarchy.

During World War II, and in wars and conflicts since, reporters went with the troops; aid workers - notably pacifists - went with, and were more-or-less protected by, the soldiers and sailors surrounding them. Today, so called reporters and aid workers wander around in war zones sans any protection; consequently, these people are becoming victims of combatants.

I can understand a desire by some to want to help, but how can anyone help another when

  1. They really don't know who is fighting who
  2. They lack protection from the people they want to aid
  3. Their country - and its allies - have no presence in the area

The sad part is when a reporter or do-gooder is captured, they beg their government - the U.S., England, Japan, Jordan - to rescue them at all costs.

The exception to the above is the Jordanian pilot who was shot down while on a bombing mission. Jordan offered a prisoner swap; Daesh burned the pilot anyway. Jordan - knowing the Daesh mentality - immediately hanged two terrorists and promised to execute several more.

By the way, if you wonder why Daesh burned the Jordan's Muslim pilot, the answer is that the soul of a burned Muslim cannot enter heaven or receive his 70 virgins.

Ms. Muelle was "collateral damage." She was in the wrong place - by her own choice - at the wrong time.

While I feel for the woman's kin, I cannot generate any sympathy for the woman. She went to the area against the advice of her country; she knew it was a war zone (ergo her raison d'etre) and she was doing what she wanted to do when she was captured by Daesh and held in the building that a bomb turned into rubble.


While Israel and Arab states use Arab acronym Daesh, most world knows radical Islamist force as either ISIS or ISIL.