News & Features » Miscellany

Elect-me Words

Rosie Right

Joan Didion, who writes incisive criticism of our culture, has a new book, "Political Fictions." Rosie has not yet read this one which analyzes U.S. politics, but she admires the book's paper cover. A genius has written on it in very small letters many many political cliches. Reading this cover is bound to give you a smile — also make you wary of many of the statements politicians seem to make at the drop of a hat (or at the sight of a microphone). Here is a sampling of the phrases:

Standing tall
Tough choices
Fundamental change
The process today gives everyone a chance to participate
The forgotten middle class
Post-election coming together
New choice based on old values
Anything that brings the process closer to the people is all to the good

Do these sound familiar?

Terms we need to know:

Hawala — (Arabic word for trust) an illegal but extensively used system of moving money without a paper trail. Customers find a dealer to whom they entrust cash with instructions to deliver it to whomever the customer designates in another country. The sender pays a small fee and receives a code. The recipient gives the code to a dealer in the second country and receives the cash. There is no permanent record of the transfer. It is estimated that between $2 and $5 billion annually moves through hawala in Pakistan alone. Source: New York Times, Oct. 3, 2001.

Circular causation — This term was used by columnist Paul Krugman on Oct. 3 when he described why New York City has been successful as a city. He says, "What keeps New York a great city is circular causation; people and businesses locate there because of the opportunities created by the presence of other people and businesses." His column was questioning whether this condition would apply anymore. Perhaps, in the interest of safety, businesses will move to less crowded settings.

Catcall: Speaker of the House of Representatives J. Dennis Hastert, inspecting the demolished World Trade Center and accompanied by 99 other House members, spoke of "just ordinary people." Rosie has railed against calling people ordinary — this just adds insult to injury.

Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825, ext. 322), letter (1707 Summit Ave., Suite 201, Richmond, Va. 23230), or e-mail

Add a comment