Monday, June 28, 2010

More Politics and the English Language

Dan Drezner and Desultory Eclecticism choose to prick their sewing needles into different, equally correct corners of the following pin cushion:

PANETTA: I think what's happened is that the more we put pressure on the Al Qaida leadership in the tribal areas in Pakistan -- and I would say that as a result of our operations, that the Taliban leadership is probably at its weakest point since 9/11 and their escape from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Having said that, they clearly are continuing to plan, continuing to try to attack this country, and they are using other ways to do it.
TAPPER: Al Qaida you're talking about.
Now, it is possible that CIA Chief Leon Panetta is using precise language to conceal a commonly oversimplified point.  After all, while Hizb-e Islami warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar--often referred to in the popular press as a member of the "Taliban leadership"--is doing reasonably well for himslef, this only serves to underscore Panetta's shrewdly concealed revelation that Hekmatyar, after hostilely opposing Mullah Mohammad Omar's original Taliban movement in the 90s and only loosely allying himself with the broader anti-NATO campaigns of the new American century, is in fact not actually a member of anything that can be plausibly defined as a united "Taliban leadership" and can thus be doing just as nicely as he pleases.  Perhaps if Panetta would lay this out a little more clearly when addressing a lay Sunday morning audience, his interlocutor would not be forced to question whether the Director of the CIA just used "Taliban" as an interchangeable synonym for "Al Qaida."      

Friday, June 11, 2010


Well, other people have made fun of soccer in general and of the World Cup in particular sufficiently for Desultory Eclecticism to leave it well enough alone.  That said, the upcoming tournament has precipitated its share of arguments.  In a frighteningly autobiographical twist, Desultory Eclecticism has been selected head chef and junior concierge for a the upcoming visit of several out-of-town friends-of-friends.  As he protested to the lead hostess, this will interfere with his ability to watch a team of 7th-tier American professional athletes battle the most revered heroes of the English nation to a thrillingly glorious draw.

"John likes sports," the lead hostess protested, "you two can sneak off to the bar and watch the game."

"No, no," the head chef/junior concierge retorted, "this isn't a sporting event; this isn't something Cowboys fans even know exists.  It's a cultural event, more like a ballet or an opera or any other European custom you'll endure once just to be able to say you enjoyed it."

"I don't understand," the lead hostess continued, furrowing her brow in a vain attempt to understand the situation.

At least there's the consolation of philosophy: