28 February 2006

Time and distance are out of place here.

Today and yesterday I understand the limits of my bicycle gloves. They're great wind-breakers, probably really useful down to about 42 degrees, and I like them because they're thin. Therein, of course, lies the problem. In cold temperatures -- and especially yesterday -- they probably give as much insulation as a paper bag. Yesterday I pretty much had to pry my fingers from the handlebars and work on uncurling each one from its frozen position. Fortunately none of them have fallen off, so I guess I avoided frostbite.

I guess I have nothing else to say.

27 February 2006

The Company You Keep, Part 2

So the Post ran a follow-up article on the American Renaissance conference held out in Herndon at the Hyatt, the hotel apparently where all the good white supremacists feel welcome. Amazingly, several of the racists spoke on the record to the Post reporter. Among the highlights, was the scrumptious revelation that justice isn't always blind:
Conference participant Michael Regan, an assistant district attorney in New York's Allegany County, said U.S. policies on immigration, trade and "demographics" have put the country on the wrong path. "You can see European Christian Americans are an endangered species," he said, asserting that the accurate description of conference participants is "white preservationists" rather than "white supremacists."

How would you like to be working in that office? I'm guessing some clever defense attorney is going to be looking at this guy's case load and trying to figure out if there's any cause for appeals or mistrials etc based on this guy's openly acknowledged bigotry. And what's this bullshit about "European Christian Americans are an endangered species"?

What bizarro America is he living in? When's the last time you had a Jewish or Muslim President? Bush, Clinton, and on back made great shows of darkening Christian church doors. I'm willing to bet a quick poll of the lawmakers up on Capitol Hill would reveal an overwhelming number of Christians versus all others combined. In fact, I'll bet the Senate would be hard pressed to field a non-Christian softball team.

As for the Supreme Court, all I'll say is Scalia and Alito. Hell, the Pope isn't Catholic enough for Scalia.

If this so-called Assistant DA can't even figure out what the hell an endangered species is, how can anyone trust him with a case?

And then there's dear old Robert Baldacci of Roanoke, Virginia. Here's his moment of Post glory:
Robert Baldacci, who works in manufacturing quality control in Roanoke, said that this was the first time he had participated in such a meeting but that he had long had a nagging sense that white people should do more to protect their interests as a group. "It would be lazy if any group ignored itself," he said.

Apparently, Mr. Baldacci doesn't really understand the origins of his compatriots' views and their glowing adoration of old school eugenicists like Madison Grant (American Renaissance still sells his 1933 tome The Conquest of a Continent on its website) and Lothrop Stoddard (whom Am. Ren. considers a "prophet"), two gentlemen who would take one look at that crazy name ending in a vowel and toss him the hell out of the white man's club. I've been lucky enough to read these fine minds of the early 20th century, so here's a bit of what they say:

"All wars thus far discussed have been race wars of Europe against Asia, or of Nordics against Mediterraneans" [Madison Grant in his introduction to Lothrop Stoddard's The Rising Tide of Color (1920), p. xxviii] -- here Nordics clearly exclude Italians, whom Grant classifies as Mediterraneans. Further on, Grant makes clear the argument that is still being articulated today by the American Renaissance supremacists: "Such a catastrophe cannot threaten if the Nordic race will gather itself together in time, shake off the shackles of an inveterate altruism, discard the vain phantom of internationalism, and reassert the pride of race and the right of merit to rule" [ibid. xxx].

Lothrop Stoddard, for his part, spends a good bit of time in The Revolt Against Civilization (1922) misreading IQ tests to prove that Italians are naturally dumber than that good old Nordic stock. In fact, Mr. Stoddard is so enamored of his statistics that he entitles the chapter, "The Iron Law of Inequality."

Apparently, given the sad time they've had of it in this world, the whites have had to make concessions in the last 80 years to those dirty, swarthy, Mediterraneans. At least Mr. Baldacci feels welcome at their conference.

26 February 2006

How absurd is this?

I have a confession to make. For all my pretend erudition, for all my supposed literary cred, I was hiding a deep dark secret. A horrific shame far worse than any mark that Hester Prynne would ever have to bear. I, dear reader, had never read anything by Albert Camus.

Well, now I have. I just finished The Stranger (and I read it in English because my other secret shame is that I'm monolingual) and now a few pieces fall together. It would be interesting to teach this book alongside Richard Wright's Native Son and Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, since trials figure so heavily in all three novels; both Dreiser and Wright layer on the detail and interpretation until you're gasping for air, but Camus just lets everything sit out there in the air, like a slight garnish meant more to show off the simple beauty of the plate. How French of him.

Meursault's of-repeated phrase "it didn't mean anything" sums up the protagonist's view pretty well until his execution nears, at which point he realizes that he's simply a cog in society's vast machine, playing his role as condemned criminal. As I'm reading this section I'm thinking to myself "OK, Foucault Discipline and Punish, the docile body etc." Dig on this:
So the thing that bothered me the most was that the condemned man had to hope the machine [the guillotine] would work the first time. And I say that's wrong. And in a way I was right. But in another way I was forced to admit that that was the whole secret of good organization. In other words, the condemned man was forced into a kind of moral collaboration. It was in his interest that everything [his execution] go off with out a hitch.

The novel ends with Meursault embracing his role as murderer, wishing for the hate of the crowd who will gather to watch the execution. It's the closest to any sort of meaning that he allows himself to create for the world.

This reaction is eerily similar to Wright's Bigger Thomas, who rejects his lawyer's defense that social conditions produced the murder of Mary Dalton, preferring instead to assert it as his act, understanding that if he claimed it as his own he claimed subjectivity. However, whereas Meursault accepts his role as murderer as a role to be played in a pageant that has no real meaning, Bigger takes on his part in order to break free from the pageant that objectified him.

Now I'm itching to get back in the classroom. Well, maybe next spring.

24 February 2006

The company you keep.

Here's a nice little story for you. The Post is reporting that the American Renaissance journal will be holding a meeting in Herndon. The journal is devoted to reinventing the US as a white nation. They run articles attacking civil rights in general and figures like Rosa Parks in particular, espousing discredited theories about racial intelligence, and "The Myth of Hispanic Family Values." The Post has a few comments from the gentleman who runs the journal:
Immigrants are "changing [white] societies in ways that most white people don't like," said Oakton resident Jared Taylor, the journal's editor.

Mr. Taylor and his journal are part of a group called The New Century Foundation. You might dismiss them as cranks until you realize that their writers are also writers on one of President Bush's favorite newspapers*, the Washington Times. The Times had the intelligence to fire former editor Samuel Francis over his white supremacist views, but they continue to house close associates on their editorial pages. And that Mr. Taylor is a favorite of editors at such staid conservative publications as the National Review (former editor Peter Brimelow to be precise). Current National Review writers aren't exactly running from the group either:
This stuff bears watching. The Far Right may not be your cup of tea; but they're out there, and with intelligent leadership, a tailwind of economic disgruntlement, and the dawning realization among white people in the West that they have, by foolish policies, made themselves into a minority in their own countries, outfits like the BNP might very well become a prominent force in public affairs in the 21st century.

Granted, Mr. Derbyshire rejects the Far Right as racist and scoffs at Mr. Taylor, but the telling words come out between the lines: "the dawning realization among white people in the West that they have, by foolish policies, made themselves into a minority in their own countries." Mr. Derbyshire, I think you may have taken one step too far...pushed a bit, this "realization" requires one to consider that African Americans, many of whom go back further than many whites in this country, aren't actually "American."

As Chuck D says, "These days you can't see who's in cahoots because the KKK's in 3 piece suits."

*Bush has commented favorably on the Rev. Moon's money-losing rag, but I'm not sure if he's able to read it actually.

Two Olympic Thoughts

Ordinarily I'm not interested in skating unless the skaters are also carrying sticks, but it is the Olympics after all, so I watched the finals of the women's figure skating. One thing I've always hated about Olympic coverage in this country is the network's filling time with puff pieces. I'm certain there are other events occurring over in Turin -- or Torino -- so that I don't have to watch some maudlin bit about an athlete whose parents have sacrificed to support them in their dreams. And I won't even go into the commentators' barely veiled pro-American bias. It's one thing to build up the USA athletes, but it's quite another -- and quite an ugly thing -- to denigrate other countries' athletes. It's so pathetic.

Then today I was thinking about how the Olympics have gradually incorporated more lifestyle "sports" in their attempt to keep themselves relevant to a generation of slackers -- the hot dog ski jump, etc. -- and I came up with a great idea for the summer games.

So here are my two observations/ideas:

1. Dick Enberg is downright nasty. I'm not sure what medication he's on, but I'm guessing he ran out of it and hasn't refilled it. He makes more meanspirited comments than that dude on American Idol. Can anyone back me up on this?

2. New Olympic Sport: Urban Bike Race. The idea is to run a race through a city without closing the course -- all traffic lights are on, pedestrians, delivery trucks, idiot commuters one to a car, etc. -- some athletes may be killed in traffic but it would make for some exciting television.

23 February 2006

Oh yeah and by the way...

Today marks one year of this fine blog. Drink specials were available in my refrigerator from 7 to 8 p.m. and they were good. For those who missed out, here was the menu:

Chicken cooked up like Julia Child instructed. Sauce of mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and tomato. Oh yeah and plenty of butter. Tomato stuffed with couscous and baked. Trader Joe's frozen haricots vert. Pinot grigio left over from last night.

U2 had been scheduled to play, but cancelled when they found out about it.

On Music.

This recent post by the Rock Creek Rambler not only hit the nail on the head, but also drove it straight through the beam. Music -- the arts in general, but music is the one that's culturally pervasive -- is integral to human emotion and expression. The music we listen to, the music we create, it doesn't matter. I'm a shitty guitar player and I can't sing worth a dime, but that doesn't stop me from hacking away at The Shins or Neil Young.

It's difficult keeping an interest in new music alive when conditions in your life don't allow for the same level of exposure you once had: for example when you can't get to live shows and radio sucks so completely that the advertisements are becoming more interesting than the music they play (Why the fuck by the way does DC not have a college radio outlet? And by that I think people know that I don't mean WAMU, as much as I like NPR). Web radio has freed that up a bit I think, allowing people to hear alternative cuts (not "alternative rock") and a different mix of artists, but it hardly builds a local community, does it?

Some songs or bands simply evoke moments of your life. The Who will always remind me of my best friend in high school and the weekends we spent doing little else than playing at being rock stars in our minds.

The mix tape -- which as RCR notes is now anachronistic -- meant Oh So Much. It was your soul broken into three minute chunks. This past summer my brother-in-law was putting together a mix tape for his girlfriend. I asked him why he didn't just burn a cd. He gave me a look that told me I clearly did not understand and then showed me the elaborate case he'd constructed for the tape: it was a crescent moon he'd built out of cardboard and had painted. The packaging of course was more important than the convenience of the media.

I suppose this evening I'll be running through a few numbers for the kids...

21 February 2006

Cezanne and then some.

Since Monday was a holiday, we decided to hit the Cezanne show at the National Gallery. Unfortunately, my wife twisted her back during all of our travels and was incapacitated, so I packed the two kids up and hit the museum good and early. We'd tried to go on Sunday but didn't get there until 12:30 and couldn't find any parking anywhere. So I got to the museum at 10:20 a.m. (they open at 10:00 a.m. M-Sat), and it was still a struggle to find parking. Still, we found some between the East Wing and the Botanic Gardens.

It turned out to be a bonus, because we entered through the East Wing and found we could go straight to the Dada show that just opened. The Dada show is heavily contextual and my son wouldn't give me the time to read all the context, but he thought the idea of a urinal as a fountain was hilarious. However, he was disturbed by the first room of the exhibit, which consists of photos and a video of the carnage of World War One. He was, in fact, a bit scared.

They've organized the show around the major cities of the Dada movement, and I have to get back sometime without the kids to check out the context better.

The Cezanne show was more crowded although the line didn't extend outside the exhibit. However, it's no fun pushing a stroller through a crowd while trying to keep a very mobile 5 year old close. I certainly didn't get enough time to view the paintings, and I'm thinking of sneaking out of work one day so I can avoid the weekend crowds.

The collection of work is tremendous. They wouldn't let me photograph anything there, so I can't show my favorite part which was three paintings hung side by side of L'Estaque, all painted from different angles. I downloaded the images from the internet, but I'm too lazy to put them together to look nice. At any rate, the show is well-worth seeing and it's so good I'm actually thinking of buying the Exhibition Catalog, which is something I never do.

Cezanne's work changes so incredibly from his early work to his later work, which is really all about shapes and color arrangement. It's amazing to see how his work moves as he experiments with shape. Here are two paintings he did of Mont Saint-Victoire:

This first one, done between 1885 and 1895, has sharp angles defining the houses and the lines are bold. It's abstract, but objects are clearly defined. In the second one, below, done in the last years of his life, Cezanne nearly did away entirely with representation. The houses can still be seen at the bottom, but they are fainter and the bold outlines that distinguish objects in the earlier painting are either fainter or absent. His brushwork takes on more characteristics of patchwork, looking like stiff jabs at the canvas.

I am definitely going back again.

20 February 2006

A good thing to take away from our last trip.

In California, every now and then we needed a break. We went to several beaches, and one of the great things about the section of California that we were in was that the beaches are really distinctive. Many are rocky, but in different ways, although some are smooth sand. Near the hospice, there was a beautiful beach tucked snug below the secluded vacation homes of the fabulously wealthy.

Unlike Malibu, which we have driven through a few times on our trips between LAX and Santa Barbara County, the beach here couldn't be sealed off by jackasses who build their houses butt up against one another. The road leading up to Hope Ranch dips down to the ocean before climbing up to the big homes; therefore the beach is a lively place full of shell-seekers, surfers, walkers, kids, and people who simply want to gaze at the ocean.

The shore slopes almost imperceptibly into the water, allowing for waders to venture a great distance from dry land. My son didn't mind that he got soaked, or that the water was relatively cold (all the surfers wore wetsuits).

At a different beach we encountered a large concrete pirate ship with a cable swing attached. My son and I rode it together, much to the amusement of the high school kids hanging out by the ship.

The first time down, we fell off, which was extremely amusing to the kids, and of course to ourselves.

These photos reminded me that we aren't far from April, which is when we generally start making spontaneous trips to the Eastern Shore. It's only 2.5 hours to Rehoboth Beach, and you can make a good day of it if you leave early enough. We still have lots of ride tickets left over from last summer.

19 February 2006

Raise Race Rays Raze

The Daytona 500 was today. I know that because it's the headline on CNN.com as of 10:46 p.m.; other than that, I couldn't give a rat's ass. Back when I was a little kid and had an AFX slot-racing track, I had interest in autoracing only to the extent that I could take the track and run it straight into a wall and crash the cars. I'm not going to poo-poo the skill of the drivers -- after all, they're going really fast and packed together like NYC cabs -- but I'm not really interested in the activity, and I can't figure out why it's so popular. Perhaps I should check the MLA bibliography to see if anyone's written a cultural analysis of the popularity of stock car racing.

The only thesis I have is far too speculative and frankly inflammatory, so I only trot it out as an example -- I have absolutely no research to back up this thesis: Has interest in the activity risen in proportion to a sense that "traditional sports" (the big 3: football, basketball, baseball) are dominated by non-white or non-US athletes?

I am also wondering about larger marketing tie-ins, where the drivers are featured on soda machines, in television ads for fast food restaurants or other everyday products, etc. There is a chicken/egg issue at work there: are the marketeers latching onto public interest in NASCAR or is NASCAR creating public interest through increased marketing of their product to the general public? Somewhat tied to that is a small class issue: has interest in NASCAR been suppressed among middle and upper classes in the past due to an association with "hillbillies"? And if so, is current marketing strategy freeing those more well-heeled aficionados to enjoy the activity in public?

At any rate, I didn't watch the race, but apparently the former Miami Hurricanes and Dallas Cowboys head coach won it. And I thought Joe Gibbs was the only footballer involved in NASCAR.

Back in the District

I've been out of DC for about the same time as it takes to play the Wimbledon Tournament and let me tell you that the lights of the Lincoln Memorial never looked better as we came up the GW Parkway from National. It was a harrowing two weeks because even though we've known for several months that my wife's mother's death was imminent, it's not something that you can digest until it happens. How does Emily Dickinson have it?
This is the Hour of Lead --
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow --
First -- Chill -- then Stupor -- then the letting go --

Death after a long illness conjures up contradictory emotions in the survivors: the pain of loss coupled with the relief that a loved one's suffering has ended. The friends and relatives, too, feel that release from a certain kind of suffering: the dying body represents only the outlines of the person they knew, leaving the visitor pained with lost possibilities.

For the last month, my mother-in-law couldn't speak or move. The unresponsive body allows for no final interactions, no dying words to be passed to those nearby. Her children fed her, because she could still eat, but there's a need for communication that remains unsatisfied. We know through small things, like increased eye tracking, that her grandchildren brought her some measure of joy in her last weeks, and while they're too young to understand the loss, we as parents understand how much joy we've all missed out on.

When our son was born, my wife's mother came to DC immediately and painted a moon and stars on our son's bedroom walls. She came again after the birth of our daughter, but in the five years between the two children so much had changed. She rarely had the energy to do more than move slowly through the house.

After her death, it was our job -- along with my wife's siblings -- to go through her house, digging through boxes that contained nothing of any worth except memories that made them invaluable. We also dug through boxes and drawers that brought recollections of a different sort: five or six mini flashlights scattered through kitchen drawers; four rolls of tin foil, all opened and used to some extent; stacks of unwritten birthday cards and notecards. All examples of her dominant trend toward disorganization that was only exacerbated by her illness.

And always the flood of images: nearly every bookcase contained at least one photo album; several bookcases seemed to exist for no other reason than to hold photo albums. Boxes in closets were full of photos representing four generations of extended family, in no particular order.

Photos are perhaps the most visible example of how objects evoke memories; after all the idea that you are capturing the spirit of the event is one of the leading sales pitches for photography. However, other objects resonate with personal meaning: a cribbage board given as a gift to my wife's grandfather in 1915, from the great-aunt who is our daughter's namesake (anyone have trouble following that genealogy? Anyone still reading, for that matter?), for example.

These objects keep people alive, but it isn't the object itself that works the magic -- it's the stories woven around them. It's the language we layer upon the object, the connection between the teller and the listener, that allows the object to conjure forth the souls of the departed. It's a small thing, perhaps, considered next to the works of Shakespeare or Van Gogh for example, but it's the only shot at immortality that most any of us get.

14 February 2006

I really don't have time for this...

I'm not really back. I don't plan to post regularly until after this weekend. However, some things can't be passed up. Like Cheney taking a shot at a "friend" -- yet another case of the VP not thinking before acting. However, the thing that's got me pissed off today is this new anti-union campaign by a real dirtbag whose main claim to fame is that he represents the most backward interests around. I've missed the ads, since I've mainly been reading regional papers with a few looks at the LA Times thrown in there, but the Washington Post has a little story about the ads (more proof by the way of Baudrillard's contention that the media becomes the event -- their coverage creates the story and even moreso, their coverage is the story).

Unions of course have their problems, not least of which being their narrowed focus post-1950's Red Scare on wage and benefits issues. The idea of "union culture" pretty much died at that point, whereas unions previously had formed a focus for social life, putting together local education programs and culural events such as theater productions. V.I. Lenin excoriates trade unions in general as the limit of non-theoretical working class movements (Lenin stresses the need for a "vanguard party" to provide the theory that will guide proletariat practice -- this combination of theory and practice generally gets the name of praxis). At any rate, the largest problem unions face these days is shrinking membership as traditionally unionized industries are shipped overseas.

This retrograde organization that's launched the antiunion campaign of course lays the blame for plant closings at the feet of the unions. Not exactly a novel charge; my grandmother, who also believed FDR "sold us down the road at Yalta," blamed unions for the steel industry collapse and medical insurance for the high cost of medical care. These charges, however, rarely stand up to any kind of real scrutiny. Sure it's true that non-unionized labor is cheaper in countries where life is cheaper, but let's take a look at some specifics:

"The full-page newspaper ads that ran yesterday showed a "Closed" sign over a padlocked gate, declaring the sign "The New Union Label. . . . Brought to you by the union 'leaders' who helped bankrupt steel, auto, and airline companies."

Interesting charge, especially since most analysts would tell you that the steel industry failed to modernize their plants and couldn't compete with newer foreign plants; the auto industry has twice been "surprised" by US consumers' changing tastes and extremely slow to abandon gas-guzzling models -- gm and ford cars are among the least inventive and poorly designed available; the airline industry has largely been impacted by two major factors -- discount carriers and September 11th.

On top of the individual industries, the charges as a whole hold even less water when one looks at financial moves since the early 1970's that have allowed Capital to move more freely while labor has been constrained, often at the point of a gun, in the emergent sweatshop archipelagos of southeast Asia and Central America. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that, ethics aside (and seriously no one running balance sheets actually cares about ethics), it's a no brainer to move let's say shoe production out of the unionized US and into the prison farm labor system of China (a supposedly Communist country, but that's a bit like taking the old East Germany seriously as the "German Democratic Republic"), where it'll cost you 19 cents to produce a shoe you can sell for $120.

Already too long a post. Plan for a second chapter on the contradictions of Capital in a consumption based economy and no good jobs. Consumer debt as spectre haunting the economy...etc.

Oh yeah, and Happy Valentine's Day.

12 February 2006

Catching up a little.

Well. We've been out in California since Friday, February 3rd. My mother-in-law passed away Sunday the 5th. It was peaceful, as far as that goes, but as anyone might guess, it's never easy. I can't really write about it properly at this point, in some ways because so many things happened so quickly, but also due to other more technical considerations: I have almost no access to the internet and what little I do have is on dial-up and I can't abide dial-up. Also I'm using a mac and safari isn't displaying all the blogger options.

Points I'd like to consider: post-death rituals, ways we remember the life not the death, and the business of dying.

However, the entire trip hasn't been dealing with funerals; for one thing, young children won't stand for it. We've had the opportunity to visit many great parks, some with space-age era play structures, like a 4-story tall rocket ship and the tallest slide I've seen in a long time (most slides these days are tame numbers, rarely having their tops out of reach of a parent's hand). This slide was a classic old metal slide that stood about twelve feet tall. Beautiful. I should have brought some wax paper to wax it down...

Photos perhaps when I'm able.

02 February 2006

Groundhog Poetry Day

I'd meant to take part in this project, but had forgotten all about it until Washington Cube reminded me. Thanks, Cube.

Here's my poem:

That September
my cat died
a still weight slumped
against the door.
That followed
your mother’s call
full of cancer, all
through her, but
she felt fine. Really.
These things happened
that year
when the towers fell
that September.

The Door Is Still Closed?

Did anyone else check out the Metro section of yesterday's Post? I know I did. The front page had an article on Metro choosing a new voice for its system. That's all well and good, but I loved the photos accompanying the piece. Here are some photos of the ten finalists:

I didn't realize we were living in Utah. Are you telling me that in a city once known as "Chocolate City," Metro couldn't find any voices that weren't white? I suppose Linda Carducci and Jon Garcia could be stretched to "ethnic" diversity, but in the end what you have are ten white people.

Now I have nothing against white people. In fact, I am one. But I also don't live in some do-dah dream world where the Washington metro area consists of upper northwest, Bethesda, and Old Town.

My wife thinks DC should have taken a page from the NYC cab system, that has celebrities (political, sports, artistic) announcing guidelines for the cabs. She thought DC could have had senators record the announcement. Maybe Barack Obama would have been given a shot.

01 February 2006

Has it come to this?

Is there more to this story? From cnn.com:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Peace activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested Tuesday in the
House gallery after refusing to cover up a T-shirt bearing an anti-war slogan before President Bush's State of the Union address.

According to a blog post on Michael Moore's Web site attributed to Sheehan, the T-shirt said, "2,245 Dead. How many more?" -- a reference to the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq.
"She was asked to cover it up. She did not," said Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman. Schneider said Sheehan was arrested around 8:30 p.m. on charges of unlawful conduct, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail.

A misdemeanor unlawful conduct for wearing a t-shirt? Is this really the face of Bush's Amerika?

Cindy Sheehan's full commentary can be found on Michael Moore's site.

Rhetorical Analysis.

I admit to the following: I did not watch the State of the Union speech. I simply cannot listen to that voice. The tortured logic is bad enough (and logic of torture), but when you add in the President speaking with all the pace and clarity of my five year old (who by the way is now reading level 1 festival reader books -- think "'Grow, turnip, grow,' said the old man."), it becomes utterly unlistenable.

I prefer to read the speech the next day, if at all. So here's a great example of bad speechwriting:
"In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting, yet it ends in danger and decline," Bush said.

If you look closely you will find Bush's "two-fers" all over the place. In this short sentence, Bush uses no less than four of what I am calling "two-fers." Professional rhetoricians may have a technical name for them, but here they are: "complex and challenging," "isolationism and protectionism," "broad and inviting," and "danger and decline."

Used sparingly, this construction is simple and powerful -- it can provide great emphasis or the two terms can work against one another to provide nuance. However, Bush's speechwriters -- most likely limited by their orator's weak grasp of English -- overdo the device, drowning their audience in cascades of two-fers. In grading papers, I see this construction deployed most often by writers who don't have enough to say and wish to pad their papers any way they can. In the course of a 5 page paper, you can make up nearly a quarter of a page by constantly hammering away with the second descriptor. However, the State of the Union shouldn't be freshman comp.

I am dismayed and disgusted.