Political Animal

DRAFT CLARK?….Just out of curiosity

DRAFT CLARK?….Just out of curiosity here, as I’m reading some of the “Draft Clark” posts around blogovia (happy, Max?): does anyone know what Wesley Clark’s actual, you know, positions are on anything? I mean, I know he’s been a general and all, and would allegedly therefore give guys like Howard Dean some street cred with the “nuke ’em into the stone age” crowd, but shouldn’t we ask him a few questions ? and maybe do an FBI background check while we’re at it ? before getting too excited about him?

UPDATE: On the other hand, Kos has a point: anyone who raises the ire of Ann Coulter can’t be all bad. And being a political cipher has its good points as well. Hmmm…..


MODERATION VS. EXTREMISM, PART 4….One last post on moderation vs. extremism. I promise, no more after this, but I do want to clarify a few things:

  • I’ve now voted in 14 national elections and I have yet to vote for anybody but a Democrat. (Well, there was that one vote for John Anderson in 1980, but that was it.) In other words, I obviously don’t have any problem with thinking that the Democratic party itself is too extreme for my personal tastes. Quite the contrary.

  • When it comes to extremism, liberals can’t hold a candle to conservatives. The anti-gay bigotry of the Republican party alone is enough to make them unfit for civilized company.

  • However, I understand that my views are not very common here in the land of the free these days, and I believe that as a matter of tactics we have to moderate our message and disassociate ourselves from the lefty fringe. In other words, we should love our lefty radicals in private but keep our distance in public, which is exactly what the Republicans do with their fringe. Once we’re actually in office we can enact as much of the lefty agenda as we can get away with, but first we have to build our base of supporters and actually get in office.

    This is an old argument, of course, and I’m basically taking the Clinton/DLC side of things. The world is what it is, and while we should try to fight issues on our terms, we shouldn’t commit electoral suicide to do it.

So that’s it. Our current president, who very successfully ran as the equivalent of a DLC Republican, revealed himself as a radical conservative once he took office and is now engaged in a methodical and thoroughly determined effort to wreck our country. I don’t want to give him four more years to do it, and if that means moderating our message and pandering a bit to some of those nervous suburban office park workers, then sign me up.

SULLIVAN ON CLINTON….Andrew Sullivan notes

SULLIVAN ON CLINTON….Andrew Sullivan notes that Perle and Wolfowitz and Cheney weren’t the only guys predicting an easy war. Bill Clinton also thought it would be a cakewalk:

“You’re looking at a couple weeks of bombing and then I’d be astonished if this campaign took more than a week. Astonished.”

I think this puts Andy in a terrible position. He’d like the war to go well so that his heroes are proven right, but that would mean that Clinton was right too. On the other hand, if it goes more than three weeks then reporters can all gang up on Clinton asking if he’s now astonished. But on the third hand…..

Hopefully the cognitive dissonance of the whole thing will be too much and his brain will explode.

HOMONYMS….Back when I was VP

HOMONYMS….Back when I was VP of Marketing at Kofax Image Products, I spent a lot of time reviewing and editing other people’s writing. One thing I noticed was that the most common spelling errors were for words that sounded alike, such as “there” and “their,” and I had the bright idea that if that was really the problem, it shouldn’t be too hard to turn people into better spellers. After all, the universe of homonyms is much smaller than the total universe of words.

Very shortly, of course, I realized that I was an idiot. It’s not that homonyms are really the words people have the hardest time with, it’s just that all their other misspellings are caught and corrected by automatic spell checkers.

Still, the basic idea is sound: given that most of our misspellings are now corrected for us by computers, the only thing standing between us and perfect spelling is homonyms. My experience is that about two-thirds of misspellings can be traced to a dozen or so pairs of homonyms, which means that there’s good news for bad spellers: if you can just manage to memorize this list (and keep your spell checker on), your documents will look pretty much perfect ? spelling wise, anyway. So here it is:


Usage Rule

They’re vs. their vs. there

“They’re” always means “they are.” “Their” involves possession of some kind (“their books,” meaning “books that belong to them.”) Use “there” in all other cases.

You’re vs. your

“You’re” always means “you are.” Use “your” in all other cases.

It’s vs. its

“It’s” always means “it is” (or “it was”). Use “its” in all other cases.

Too vs to (nobody seems to have trouble with “two”)

“Too” means either “also” or “excessively.” Use “to” in all other cases.

Who’s vs. whose

“Who’s” always means “who is.” Use “whose” in all other cases.

Lose vs. loose

“Lose” is the word that’s pronounced “looz” while “loose” is pronounced “looss.” This is actually the best quickie definition since both words can be used in a wide variety of ways.

Write vs. right

“Write” means putting words on a page. Use “right” in all other cases.

Deer vs. dear

“Deer” is an animal. Use “dear” in all other cases.

We’ll vs. will

“We’ll” always means “we will.” Use “will” in all other cases.

Hear vs. here (and “hear, hear” vs. “here, here”)

“Hear” is what you do with your ears. Use “here” in all other cases. (And “hear, hear” is the correct phrase meaning “damn right.”)

Plain vs. plane

“Plain” means either “not fancy” or a “flat expanse of land,” like the Great Plains. Use “plane” in all other cases.

New vs. knew

“New” means “not old.” Use “knew” in all other cases.

This list is more or less in the order that I seemed to encounter them, from most commonly misspelled to least. And if even this list seems like too much work to memorize, there’s more good news: the top six are really the killers. They seemed to account for about half of all the misspellings I encountered.

The nice thing is that in most of these cases one of the words has a pretty firm meaning, and all you have to do is check to see if that meaning fits what you want to say. If it doesn’t, just use the other spelling ? there’s no need to bother memorizing its variant uses.

UPDATE: By popular demand, here’s a couple more:


Usage Rule

Effect vs. affect

“Effect” is usually a noun, so it has “an” or “the” before it. In all other cases, use “affect.” This is not a foolproof guide, but it’s close….

Site vs. sight

“Site” means a place where something is located: “the site of the Taj Mahal,” or a “website.” Use “sight” in all other cases. (And don’t even bother with “cite”; just use another word unless you’re sure you have it right.)

UPDATE 2: Kieran Healy goes beyond spelling and offers some additional practical advice on writing.