Saturday Night’s Alright for Dribbling

Why Do You Call It MAY-Hee-Koh? Lydell points out a query posed to the Chicago Tribune’s lingo expert:

Q. Why do Americans pronounce Chicago with a “sh” sound at the beginning (as in “she”), instead of a “ch” (as in “chick”)? You might have noticed that Spanish speakers, even bilingual speakers (such as myself) make a very clear distinction between the CH sound and the SH sound. My lips refuse to conform to anything but a “Chick-ah-go” pronunciation.

— Stephanie Pringhipakis Guijarro, Chicago

To his possible credit, the Tribune guy ignores the multicultural preciousness behind the question and answers it seriously. I would have been tempted to respond. “Dear Stephanie: Where the heck did those people down in México come up with that voiceless velar fricative pronunciation for the X: MAY-hee-koh? What’s with that strange-o accent and wild vowels? You may have noticed Americans (such as myself) say “MeKSiko.” My Midwestern lips (actually, the back of my tongue and my soft palate) absolutely refuse to pronounce X as anything but the most excellent consonant cluster “ks” (except in all the many exceptional cases, such as the “gz” in “exit”). P.S. What’s a ‘Pringhipakis’?”

Doubts Answered:
By way of Steve Downey, fellow cyclist and connoisseur of notable sports names, we encounter Lucious Pusey, a linebacker with Eastern Illinois University. Maybe I should say former linebacker, because Pusey reportedly changed his name and the EIU roster now shows him as Lucious Seymour. Mr. Seymour-Pusey’s name has been the subject of frequent blog-based chortling; I join in the chorus only for the most noble of reasons: because I told someone this story and they dared to doubt me.

Blogger Embed: There’s lots of talk about bloggers being the future of journalism, but it’s rare at this point to find bloggers trying to tackle real reporting. An exception: Bill Roggio, a blogger who has embedded with U.S. military units in the past and has just gone back to Iraq to do it again. He’s unattached to any news organization, and his trip is funded by readers. I kicked in 25 bucks despite the fact I’m not in love with his hawkish take on the war. But I think it’s worth supporting anyone willing to put themselves on the line to report independently (or as independently as possible in a situation where staying alive means staying with the troops).

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‘Most Americans Believe Iran Is Building a Nuclear Weapon’ Most Americans Believe Iran Is Building a Nuclear Weapon.

My headline for the story might be, “So what do you expect?” The Wall Street Journal reports the results of a Harris Interactive poll finding that “a large majority of Americans believe Iran is using its uranium research program to build a nuclear weapon.” Is that belief a surprise, considering the fact this is precisely the message that government and media are giving citizens, readers, viewers and listeners every time the subject of Iran comes up?

Let’s take a look at what Harris Interactive said Americans believed about Iraq in March 2003: Among other findings reported on March 6 of that year — 13 days before the war began — Harris reported 80 percent of Americans “believe Iraq has or is making nuclear, chemical or biological weapons”; 78 percent believed “believe there is at least some link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.” Lost in the mists of time is the finding that, even with those beliefs about Saddam and Iraq, only a plurality of Americans (45-36 percent) said they favored an attack at the time.

The point of all the above being: If people are bombarded day and night by the same set of “facts,” that’s bound to affect their thinking.


Happy anniversary, Shock and Awe. What I remember about the first day of the Iraq War — it was early the morning of the 20th in Baghdad, really — is the attempt to kill Saddam Hussein with a massive opening strike. In a way, it’s an episode that’s emblematic of the whole course of the war: The CIA reported it had good inside information about Saddam’s whereabouts, and President Bush decided to try to “decapitate” Iraq’s government and perhaps abbreviate the war. Initially, rumors flew that the strike had narrowly missed Hussein — reports circulated that a grievously injured Saddam had been pulled from the rubble of a bunker. But that, like so much that was perhaps wishfully reported about the war, turned out to be untrue. Three weeks later, a U.S. air strike flattened a Baghdad apartment block that housed a restaurant where Saddam was supposed to be. After an intensive effort to identify the remains of the score or so of people killed in the attack, the conclusion was that if Saddam had been there, he was gone by the time the bombs struck.

Maybe we’re past all the illusions we had about Iraq at the beginning, all the shaky information about the threat Saddam and his henchmen posed, the premature projections of victory, the shortsighted decisions about how to handle the occupation. Maybe we have given an elected government a precious opportunity to take root, and maybe Iraq will flourish even after U.S. troops are no longer there to maintain a semblance of order. All I can be sure of is that, after spending two years, tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, Iraq and the United States are different from what they were when we launched that first strike, and it’s far too early to tell what all the consequences will be.

What Are We Fighting For?

From an Army journalist/blogger who is returning from 11 months in Iraq:

“This war started out as a means to find weapons of mass destruction. Then, it was let’s give the Iraqi people freedom. Now, politicians say let’s fight the terrorists there and not on American soil. To be honest, soldiers don’t care about the cause. We’re not fighting for any of the above; we are fighting for the guy on our left and right. You form a bond so tight with fellow soldiers that you never want to let them down. I’ve seen it displayed every day for a year.”

Later in the same post, the blogger (whose observations are certainly worth reading, whether you agree or not) talks of his resentment that wire services and newspapers have seldom picked up on the personal stories of American troops killed in Iraq:

“We learned our lesson of spamming a memorial story to the larger outlets like AP. The editors deleted the story and used the photo of a crying soldier hugging the memorial display of an M-16 bayoneted into a box with the soldier’s helmet on the buttstock and dog tags on the hand grip. The photo cutline read: A soldier mourns the loss of a fellow comrade. Elsewhere in Iraq, 14 killed in a large explosion outside… you get the point. Just a single sentence. No name. No family. Just a sentence and then elsewhere in Iraq. That’s hardly justice for a soldier who gave that reporter the freedom of press.”

It’s the last sentence of that paragraph — especially in combination with the sentiment expressed in the first quote — that really gets to me. “We’re only fighting for our buddies and their survival … but we’re giving all you media ingrates (and those who express questions, doubts, criticism or outright rejection of the war) the freedoms you enjoy.” It’s as if, yes, the corruptness of the reasons given for going to war in Iraq — and for putting all the troops at risk there — is recognized. But at the same time, there’s a belief that the fight is preserving our rights.

I don’t get it. “Soldiers don’t care about the cause” (can’t help but think of the Country Joe lyric here: “One two three, What are we fighting for? Don’t tell me I don’t give a damn, Next stop is Vietnam. …”) Yet, as one person lectured me a couple months ago, they’re keeping me safe to sit here and blog my brains out.

You know, I don’t believe any of this is keeping us safe. And as for rights, I think the people who launched this war with their campaign of untruths are a bigger menace to our future as a democracy than Saddam ever was.

Those Crazy Americans

You’ve got to love those crazy Americans. Wait, that’s me, too. Change that to “us crazy Americans.” Just seven weeks ago, we had a chance to fire the guy who decided that the single most important thing to do in the whole wide world, just couldn’t wait to get it done, was to bust world-class bad guy and former U.S. ally (those crazy Americans!) Saddam Hussein.

But no. For reasons still inadequately explained (and no, I’m not buying fraud as the answer, or the “morality” thing, either) and perhaps irretrievably buried in the minds of tens of millions of voters, the guy was re-elected.

Now, the Washington Post and ABC News are out with a new poll: A majority of us crazy Americans now think the war’s, like, a mistake:

“Most Americans now believe the war with Iraq was not worth fighting and more than half want to fire embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the chief architect of that conflict, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

“The survey found that 56 percent of the country now believes that the cost of the conflict in Iraq outweighs the benefits, while 42 percent disagreed. It marked the first time since the war began that a clear majority of Americans have judged the war to have been a mistake.

“Barely a third of the country approves of the job that Rumsfeld is doing as defense secretary, and 52 percent said President Bush should sack Rumsfeld, a view shared by a big majority of Democrats and political independents.”

But then comes the number that probably partly explains the way we crazy Americans voted last month: “… Nearly six in 10 — 58 percent — said the United States should keep its military forces in Iraq rather than withdraw them, a proportion that has not changed in seven months.”

OK — that’s honorable. Let’s not cut and run and leave those nice Iraqis in the lurch. The thing you have to question about that sort of thinking, though, is the assumption that our indefinite presence is a stabilizing, positive influence. I mean, we sure can’t imagine anyplace in the world that doesn’t benefit from our warm attention, but at some point you have to consider the possibility that Iraq could be better off with some different kind of foreign oversight, or regime, than what we’re trying to impose.