31 January 2005

Word for the Day

prelapsarian · "prE-"lap-'ser-E-&n · adjective
: characteristic of or belonging to the time or state before the fall of mankind
Etymology: pre- + Latin lapsus slip, fall – compare lapse

28 January 2005

Word for the Day

endomorphic · "en-d&-'mor-fik; –do- · adjective
1 : of or relating to the component in W. H. Sheldon's (obsolete) classification of body types that measures the massiveness of the digestive viscera and the body's degree of roundedness and softness
2 : having a heavy rounded body build often with a marked tendency to become fat

- endomor·phy · -fi – · noun
- endomorph · noun · an individual displaying such characteristics

Etymology: [Biol.] endoderm + -morphic; from the predominance in such types of structures developed from the endoderm, q.v.

27 January 2005

Mozart Anniversary

Today, January 27, 2005, is the 249th anniversary of the birth of W. A. Mozart (1756-1791).

Word for the Day

moiety \MOY-&-ti\ noun

1. One of two equal parts; a half.
2. An indefinite part; a small portion or share.
3. One of two basic tribal subdivisions.

Tom divided the cake and Becky ate with good appetite, while Tom nibbled at his moiety.--Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Cut off from news at home, fearful of a blood bath, anxious to salvage a moiety of the reform program, the Prague leadership accepted Moscow’s diktat.
--Karl E. Meyer, "Pangloss in Prague," New York Times, June 27, 1993

Barunga society is sharply divided into two complementary, descent-based branches (a structure anthropologists call "moiety"), which permeate relationships, spirituality, and many other aspects of life.
--Claire Smith, "Art of The Dreaming," Discovering Archaeology, March/April 2000
Moiety comes from Old French meitiet, from Late Latin medietas, from Latin medius, "middle."

26 January 2005

United Church of Christ Welcomes Sponge Bob

SpongeBob receives 'unequivocal welcome' from United Church of Christ
By J. Bennett Guess~United Church News~Jan.24, 2005

(accompanied by photo of Rev. Thomas welcoming Sponge Bob in his office)

CLEVELAND -- Joining the animated fray, the United Church of Christ today (Jan. 24) said that Jesus' message of extravagant welcome extends to all, including SpongeBob Squarepants - the cartoon character that has come under fire for allegedly holding hands with a starfish.
"Absolutely, the UCC extends an unequivocal welcome to SpongeBob," the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, said, only partly in jest. "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."
For that matter, Thomas explained, the 1.3-million-member church, if given the opportunity, would warmly receive Barney, Big Bird, Tinky-Winky, Clifford the Big Red Dog or, for that matter, any who have experienced the Christian message as a harsh word of judgment rather than Jesus' offering of grace.
The UCC's welcome comes in the wake of laughable accusations by James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, that the popular SpongeBob and other well-known cartoon characters are crossing "a moral line" by stressing tolerance in a national We Are Family Foundation-sponsored video that will be distributed to U.S. schools on March 11, 2005.
Later, an assistant to Dobson called SpongeBob's participation in the video "insidious."
Thomas said, on the contrary, it is Dobson who is crossing the moral line for sending the mistaken message that Christians do not value tolerance and diversity as important religious values.
"While Dobson's silly accusation makes headlines, it's also one more concrete example of how religion is misused over and over to promote intolerance over inclusion," Thomas said. "This is why we believe it is so important that the UCC speak the Gospel in an accent not often heard in our culture, because far too many experience the cross only as judgment, never as embrace."
Dobson, despite his often-outrageous viewpoints, is arguably one of the most oft-heard religious voices in popular culture today. Through his Focus on the Family media empire, Dobson produces daily commentaries that appear widely on television and radio stations across the United States, often times as "public service announcements."
Meanwhile, the UCC's recently released 30-second paid television commercial - produced to underscore the denomination's belief that Jesus didn't turn anyone away - has been rejected by two major television networks for being "too controversial."
"Resistance to our message is formidable," Thomas says, "because we're cutting against the prevailing grain of a society that is afraid of the stranger, suspicious of difference and easily seduced by narrowly defined theological boundaries."The 1.3-million-member United Church of Christ, with national offices in Cleveland, has almost 6,000 local churches in the United States and Puerto Rico. It was formed by the 1957 union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.

AARP Bulletin on Social Security

The following is from the AARP bulletin. I don't endorse increasing payroll taxes, but, as the article points out, there are other ways to make the relatively small adjustments required to make social security solvent forever Notably, the Bush Administration's plan doesn't actually address the easily soluble problem at all, since it would sequester much of the revenue and actually cost more. Instead, it is their intention to use the relatively minor problems with social security's funding to further a supply-side right-wing agenda that would put this country even further into stupendous debt. Even many Republicans in Congress are unwilling to endorse such a brazenly risky and irresponsible scheme.

Don’t Mess With Success
There’s nothing wrong with Social Security that a few changes can’t fix
By Merrill Goozner
January 2005

After 65 years Social Security is, like America, facing the challenges of aging. Fewer workers will be paying into the system to support those who receive benefits. By 2040 there will be just two workers for each retiree, compared with more than three today, seriously affecting the solvency of the system. But just how dire is the financial picture? Will Social Security be there for our grandchildren?
Designed to provide a basic income for retirees and their families, Social Security has done remarkably well in achieving that goal and is considered the most successful government program in the nation’s history.
Despite some problems, many analysts maintain there is no crisis and that moderate adjustments can keep the system sound. The most recent Social Security trustees’ report shows that the system can pay all scheduled benefits until 2042. That year, if no changes have been made, benefits would have to be cut about 30 percent to bring payments in line with incoming payroll taxes.
While 2042 may seem far off, experts agree that it’s better to make moderate changes earlier rather than later to avoid the "cliff" of a drastic benefit reduction or a hefty tax increase. Here are some ideas being discussed:
The simplest adjustment would be a slight increase in the payroll, or FICA, tax. According to the Social Security trustees, if the tax on wages today were raised by less than 1 percent each for employee and employer (from the current rate of 6.2 percent each), Social Security would be solvent through 2077.
Another proposal is to "pop the cap"—to raise the point at which wages are no longer subject to Social Security taxes. Congress set the level in 1983 to cover 90 percent of all wages. The wage cap today is $90,000. But top earners today have a larger share of the income pie, and the portion subject to tax for Social Security has fallen to 84 percent. Using the projections of the Social Security trustees, raising the wage cap to about $140,000 would provide almost one-third of the requirement for solvency for 75 years.
It’s worth noting that a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based research group, concludes: "If the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are made permanent, as the Administration has proposed, their cost over the next 75 years [using Congressional Budget Office projections] will be more than five times the Social Security shortfall over this period."
Another source of payroll taxes could be newly hired public employees. Edith Fierst, a lawyer who was a member of President Clinton’s Social Security Advisory Council, says that currently nearly 7 million local and state employees are not covered by Social Security but rather by employer-operated retirement funds. Bringing new workers into Social Security would help fund the system.
Some adjustments have been made, and more are likely. The rise in the normal retirement age from 65 to 67 already constitutes a benefit cut. And more people are paying taxes on their Social Security benefits. Other changes to benefits could include modifying the cost-of-living adjustment, raising the normal retirement age even higher and calculating a person’s initial benefits using price increases rather than wage increases.
President Bush has declared that he intends to make Social Security reform a priority of his administration, because "the system is not going to be whole for our children or our grandchildren." His solution is to let workers create private accounts using part of their Social Security payroll taxes. Though few specifics have been released, the hope is that private plans invested in the market will generate equal or greater benefits than the traditional Social Security benefits. The risk is that they won’t.
At a time when fewer people have pensions and most individual retirement accounts are already subject to stock market risk, many question if private accounts are a good idea.
"All private accounts do is transform the nature of the benefit," says Robert D. Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research group. If taxes and benefits stay the same, he says, "there’s still a problem." In fact, he and others say that private accounts will only make things worse because they would require benefit cuts and run up huge federal deficits in order to finance the transition.
Proponents of private accounts point to 2018 as the year when Social Security benefits will exceed revenue from FICA taxes and taxes on benefits. That’s when the system will have to use interest earned on its Treasury bonds to pay benefits.
To prepare for this, Congress passed legislation in 1983 that would create a surplus in the Social Security trust fund to help pay for the boomers. As a result, by 2018 the trust fund’s holdings will balloon to $3.7 trillion, up from $1.5 trillion today. This is the boomers’ nest egg.
Backers of private accounts say these trillions aren’t a real asset, since future taxpayers will have to repay the Social Security trust fund . "We don’t pay any attention to the trust fund," says Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, a libertarian group in Washington. "We only care about the actual cash flows from the government."
Others disagree. They maintain that the Treasury bonds owned by the trust fund are assets. Says Reischauer, "If Social Security were run like other quasi-governmental agencies like Fannie Mae, which also buy Treasury bonds, there would be no question about repaying the loans."
John Rother, AARP’s director of policy, adds: "Redeeming the trust funds is a sacred commitment, since they represent prior contributions from workers to fund their own benefits. Failing to do so would break the intergenerational compact that’s the foundation of Social Security."
Indeed, if current workers divert some of their Social Security payroll taxes into private accounts, the government would have to make up the difference to cover benefits. Estimates for such transition costs range between $1 trillion and $2 trillion over 10 years.
At a time when the government is already running record deficits, many economists worry what the transition costs could do to the overall economy. Says Christian Weller, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan research institute based in Washington: "It will lead to higher interest rates that hurt households directly—not abstractly in the future but immediately. You are hurting people today and cutting benefits in the future."
Eugene Steuerle, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, says private accounts may have a role to play. But, he adds, they’re getting too much attention and detracting from other Social Security issues.
"Social Security could do a much better job," he says. "With or without private accounts, it needs to be better targeted to those who are most elderly and truly needy."
Barbara B. Kennelly, head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, says private accounts change the intent of Social Security. "What the president’s plan does is take Americans out of the community pool, where we share the risk, and put each of us into our own pool of one to fend for ourselves," she says. "That’s fine if you’re rich.
"Of course, we have to make changes in years to come. What we don’t have to do is dismantle the current program to do it."
Merrill Goozner, a Washington-based writer, covered economics for the Chicago Tribune. He wrote The $800 Million Pill: The Truth Behind the Cost of New Drugs. Carol Simons and Susan Crowley contributed to this article.

25 January 2005

Krugman on the Greenspan Succession


Testimonial: If you're reluctant to sign up for the New York Times' online edition, I can tell you there's no real downside. I have not been bombarded with Spam or advertising, and have found the ability to read the news and opinion in the Times invaluable. The same, incidentally, goes for the LA Times and the Washington Post.

Word for the Day

coruscate \KOR-&-skeit\ intransitive verb

1. To give off or reflect bright beams or flashes of light; to sparkle.
2. To exhibit brilliant, sparkling technique or style.

They pulled up at the farthest end of a loop path that looked out over the great basin of the Rio Grande under brilliant, coruscating stars.
--Bill Roorbach, "Big Bend," The Atlantic, March 2001

Beneath you lie two miles of ocean -- a bottomlessness, for all practical purposes, an infinity of blue. ... A thousand coruscating shafts of sunlight probe it, illuminating nothing.
--Kenneth Brower, "The Destruction of Dolphins," The Atlantic, July 1989

What coruscating flights of language in his prose, what waterfalls of self-displaying energy!
--Joyce Carol Oates, review of A Theft, by Saul Bellow, New York Times, March 5, 1989

Whether we know or like it or not, thoseof us who turn our hands to this task are scribbling in a line of succession which, however uncertainly and intermittently, reaches back to the young Macaulay, who first made his public reputation as a coruscating writer in the 1820s.
--David Cannadine, "On Reviewing and Being Reviewed," History Today, March 1, 1999
Coruscate comes from Latin coruscatus, past participle of coruscare, "to move quickly, to tremble, to flutter, to twinkle or flash." The noun form is coruscation. Also from coruscare is the adjective coruscant, "glittering in flashes; flashing."
Quite shamelessly stolen from

24 January 2005

E-mail to "Say it ain't so" Joe Lieberman

I sent Senator Joe Lieberman, who Josh Marshall is reporting may be about to bolt from the "fainthearted faction," the following e-mail:

Dear Senator Lieberman,
As a concerned citizen on an issue which concerns all Americans, namely President Bush's entirely unfounded and foolish efforts to phase out social security under the phony mantle of "personal accounts," I am concerned about reports that you have not clearly articulated opposition to the President's nefarious albeit thusfar ill-defined plan. I understand you made comments on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" recently which indicate you may be about to do so, and I am writing to encourage you to make clear that you stand with the VAST majority of Democratic leaders and constituents in opposing any plan designed to trump up a phony crisis in order to undermine the most important and successful social program in our nation's history.
Thank you.

David Studhalter

Word for the Day

daube · 'dOb · (French) noun
: a stew of marinated and braised meat, (usually boneless beef), vegetables (including tomatoes), herbs, and spices, typical of Provençal cuisine.

21 January 2005

Krugman: No Free Lunch


Word for the Day

oligopsony · a-li-‘gôp-s&-ni · noun

: a market situation in which each of a few buyers exerts a disproportionate influence on the market
- oligopsonistic · -"gôp-s&-'nis-tik · adjective

Etymology: olig- + Greek opsOnia purchase of victuals, from opsOnein to purchase victuals, from opson food + Oneisthai to buy; see venal


monopsony · m&-'näp-s&-nE · noun [pluralnies]

: an oligopsony limited to one buyer

- monopsonistic · -"näp-s&-'nis-tik · adjective

20 January 2005

Word for the Day

gormless · 'gorm-l&s · adjective
: chiefly British-- lacking intelligence; stupid
Etymology: alteration of English dialect gaumless, from gaum attention, understanding (from Middle English gome, from Old Norse gaum, gaumr) + -less

19 January 2005

Word for the Day

ablate · a-'blEIt · verb
Inflected form(s): ablated; ablating
Noun form: ablation

transitive senses : to remove, especially by cutting,
abrading, or evaporating

intransitive senses : to become ablated; especially :

Etymology: Latin ablatus (pp. of auferre to remove), from ab- + latus, past participle of ferre -- compare ukase, bear, tolerate

14 January 2005

From The Star King

The following is a brief excerpt, in the form of one of the picturesque pseudo-quotational chapter headings, from The Star King (1963), by Jack Vance, the first of the "Gaean Reach" novels. (The Gaean Reach in the Fifteenth/Sixteenth Century of Space, i.e. A.D. ~3400-3500, is called the Oikumene). This particular passage serves to set the scene for a chapter telling the early life of Kirth Gersen, the protagonist, and how he came to be conducting his deadly serious enterprise in Brinktown.

From "The Wages of Sin," by Stridenko: article in Cosmopolis, May, 1404:

Brinktown: what a city! Once the jumping-off place, the last outpost, the portal into infinity – now just another settlement of the North East Middle Beyond. But "just another"? Is this a fair description? Decidedly not. Brinktown must be seen to be believed, and even then the hard of belief depart incredulous. The houses are set far apart along shaded avenues; still they rise like watchtowers, thrusting up into and through the palms, virebols, scalmettos, and it is a mean house which does not soar above the treetops. The ground level is no more than an entry, a raised pavilion where the clothes must be changed, for local habit ordains the use of paper house capes and paper slippers. Then above: what an explosion of architectural conceits, what turrets and spires, belfries and cupolas! What elaborate magnificence, what inspired scrimshaw, what intricate, inventive, farcical, wonderful applications and misapplications of likely and unlikely materials! Where else can one find balustrades of tortoiseshell studded with gold-plated fish heads? Where else to ivory nymphs hang suspended by their hair from the roof gutters, their faces expressing only bland benediction? Where else can a man’s success be gauged by the sumptuousness of the tombstone he designs for himself and erects in his front yard, complete with panegyrical epitaph? And in fact where but in Brinktown is success such an ambiguous recommendation? Few indeed of the inhabitants dare show themselves within the Oikumene. The magistrates are assassins; the civil guards arsonists, extortioners and rapists; the elders of the council, bordello owners. But civic affairs proceed with a punctilio and gravity worthy of the Grand Sessions at Borugstone, or a coronation at the Tower of London. The Brinktown jail is one of the most ingenious ever propounded by the civic authorities. It must be remembered that Brinktown occupies the surface of a volcanic butte, overlooking a trackless jungle of quagmire, thorn, and eel-vine skiver tussock. A single road leads down to the jungle; the prisoner is merely locked out of the city. Escape is at his option; he may flee as far through the jungle as he sees fit: the entire continent is at his disposal. But no prisoner ever ventures far from the gate; and when his presence is required, it is only necessary to unlock the gate and call his name.

Word for the Day

wastrel · 'wAs-tr&l ; 'wäs- · noun
1 : vagabond, waif
2 : one who dissipates resources foolishly and self-indulgently: profligate

Etymology: irregular from waste

12 January 2005

Word for the Day

eldritch \EL-drich\ adjective

:strange; unearthly; weird; eerie.
In the eldritch light of evening in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, the eye plays tricks on the brain.
--Thom Stark, “Something’s Burning,” Boardwatch, November 2000

The immitigable mountains and their stark, eldritch trees; coasts where earth abruptly snapped off, never to be continued, or beaches which gnawed it to bright dust and sucked it gently away....
--Carolyn Kizer, “A Childhood South of Nowhere,” New York Times, April 9, 1989

Eldritch perhaps derives from a Middle English word meaning “fairyland,” from Middle English elf, “elf” (from Old English aelf) + riche, “kingdom” (from Old English rice, akin to G. reich).
. . .
stolen shamelessly from www.wordsmith.org

11 January 2005

Word for othe Day

casuistry · kÄzh-w&-stri; kÄ-zh&- · noun · plural -ries

1 : a resolving of specific cases of conscience, duty, or conduct through interpretation of ethical principles or religious doctrine
2 : specious argument; rationalization, esp. involving the first sense in a negative connotation
From Wikipedia, on the first (non-sinister) sense:

Casuistry (argument by cases) is an attempt to determine the correct response to a moral problem, often a moral dilemma, by drawing conclusions based on parallels with agreed responses to pure cases, also called paradigms. Casuistry is a method of ethical case analysis. Another common everyday connotation is "complex reasoning to justify moral laxity or to forward unspoken agendas."

Casuistry is a branch of applied ethics. It is the standard form of reasoning applied in common law.

Casuistry takes a relentlessly practical approach to morality. Rather than applying theories, it examines cases. By drawing parallels between paradigms, so called "pure cases," and the case at hand, a casuist tries to determine the correct response (not merely an evaluation) to a particular case. The selection of a paradigm case is justified by warrants.

This form of reasoning is the basis of case law in common law.

Etymology: casuist; 1609, "one who studies and resolves cases of conscience," from Fr. casuiste, from L. casus. Often in a sinister or contemptuous sense. Casuistry is first attested 1725.
"Casuistry ... destroys, by distinctions and exceptions, all morality, and effaces the essential difference between right and wrong."
[Bolingbroke, 1736]

10 January 2005

Word for the Day

etiolate \I-ti-&-LEIT\ transitive verb

1. (Botany) To bleach and alter the natural development of (a green plant) by excluding sunlight.
2. To make pale or sickly.
3. To make weak by stunting the growth or development of.

intransitive verb:
(Botany) To become bleached or whitened, as when grown without sunlight.

Under that etiolated sky all life seemed wrung out.
--Colin Thubron,
The Lost Heart of Asia

[They] had feverish eyes, pale faces and gaunt, etiolated bodies from spending all the hours of daylight shut up in cramped and often humid spaces.
--Hilary Spurling,
The Unknown Matisse
Etiolate comes from French étioler, perhaps for s’éteuler, "to become like straw," from Old French esteule, "stubble or straw," from Latin stipula, "a stalk, straw."

05 January 2005

Word for the Day

vituperation \vy-tu-p&-REI-sh&n, -tyu-\ noun

1. The act or an instance of speaking abusively to or about.
2. Sustained and severely abusive language.
It was a bitter attack on those who had sneered at his father, an astonishingly poised performance for a twenty-six-year-old, and an early demonstration of Bron’s gift for vituperation.
--Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "Bron and His ‘Affec. Papa," The Atlantic, May 2001

Everybody was very nice except the Liberal women -- who have a repertoire of vituperation that I cannot believe to be equalled anywhere.
--Bonnie Kime Scott (Editor), Selected Letters of Rebecca West

Ratifying Wylie’s vituperations against the homemaker, feminists have scorned the domestic role and exhorted other women to join them in forsaking it as unworthy of their talents.
--F. Carolyn Graglia, Domestic Tranquility
Vituperation comes from Latin vituperatio, from the past participle of vituperare, "to blame," from vitium, "a fault" + parare, "to prepare." The verb form is vituperate; the related adjective is vituperative. One who vituperates is a vituperator.
Remorselessly stolen from Wordsmith.org.

04 January 2005

Paul Krugman's detailed analysis of the phony crisis in social security

See link.

Word for the Day

riposte \rih-POST\, noun:
1. A quick thrust given after parrying an opponent’s lunge in fencing.
2. A quick and effective reply by word or act.
intransitive verb
To make a riposte.

She had an agile, teasing sense of humor that included a sure grasp of the absurd and an instinct for punchy ripostes.
--Sally Bedell Smith, Diana in Search of Herself

It was an inelegant riposte, especially for one so quick-witted as Neumann.
--Peter Gay, My German Question

When she told him how much she hated being called an old trout, he’d riposte: "The trout is the most beautiful of fish."
--Angela Carter,
Shaking a Leg
Riposte derives from Italian risposta, "an answer," from rispondere, "to answer," from Latin respondere, "to promise in return, to answer," from re- + spondere, "to promise."