Archive for September 17, 2009

You Lie?

September 17, 2009 Leave a comment


We missed Obama’s health care speech. We were on Nantucket last week, and on Wednesday evening we went into town to have dinner at the Boarding House. But it didn’t take long for us to learn about Representative Joe Wilson’s mid-speech outburst after Obama said, “There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This too is false. The reforms, the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”

What I find saddest about the whole episode is Obama’s political calculation that, in selling health care reform, he must insist on the ineligibility of illegal immigrants. Would we rather they die in the street? Would we rather have their untreated illnesses spread? Ted Rall’s latest cartoon, above, touches on the absurdity of the misplaced outrage. So too does E.J. Dionne’s column earlier this week in the Washington Post. E.J. (my college classmate and, for two years, next door neighbor) writes:

As for immigrants who are here illegally, those who go to an emergency room already receive medical attention, and they should. No doctor I know, whatever his or her politics, would deny treatment to a sick person on the basis of immigration status.

Forget compassion and consider self-interest. Aren’t you better off if the person working next to you who has a communicable disease receives care early on?

I am not in any way dismissing those concerned about illegal immigration as racists or reactionaries. There are legitimate disagreements as to what we should do about it and problems with extending government programs to those who violate the law to get here.

But I am not at all at peace with the fact that the one issue about which a member of Congress chose to rise up and accuse our president of being a liar related to the charge that our chief executive wasn’t doing enough to build walls between illegal immigrants and health coverage.

How mean-spirited will we allow ourselves to become? How coarsened has our political culture made us? We like to see ourselves as a generous, caring and welcoming nation. Are we losing that part of our character?

As for Wilson’s surprise commentary, Geoff Nunberg at Language Log observed over the weekend that Wilson’s wording suggests a lack of spontaneity.

To a lot of people, Joe Wilson deserves credit not just for speaking his mind, but for speaking theirs. “He blurted out what many other Republicans probably were thinking,” one commentator put it, while Rush Limbaugh said: “I was shouting, “You’re lying,” throughout the speech at the television. You’re lying! It’s a lie! Joe Wilson simply articulated what millions of Americans were saying.”

Well, not quite. However many Americans were moved to tax the President with dishonesty as they listend to the speech, it’s a safe bet they expressed themselves the way Limbaugh did, in the present progressive — “You’re lying.” Whereas what Wilson said was “you lie,” revisting a use of the simple present that parted ways with ordinary conversational English a couple of centuries ago. “You lie” — it’s a sentence you expect to hear finished with “sirrah,” and not the sort of thing that anyone says in a moment of spontaneous anger. (–”I really meant to put the money back.” –”You lie!”)

I don’t mean to suggest that Wilson’s effusion was planned, but it’s hard to believe it was unrehearsed: it has the sound of something he had imagined himself saying to the President in numerous idle reveries, maybe as he struck a heroic pose drawn from his recreational reading …

Categories: Language, Medicine, Politics

Kit Kat and Cadbury

September 17, 2009 Leave a comment


My favorite treat in my childhood was a Kit Kat bar. Thank god for Rowntree’s. Indeed, it’s the Kit Kat that introduced me to the city of York, which I made it a point to visit on the first Saturday of my five-week stay in Leeds in the summer of 1977. (Well, okay, not because of Rowntree’s, which by then was Rowntree Mackintosh, but because York is such a beautiful, historic city, with its Roman and Viking heritage.)

Calamity struck in 1969, when Rowntree licensed Hershey to produce Kit Kat bars in the US. Sigh. They’re okay, but the chocolate simply isn’t as good. When Nestlé bought Rowntree in 1988, they were stuck with the licensing agreement — see the wikipedia article on Kit Kat and its references — so here in the US we continue to be consigned to a life with mediocre Kit Kat bars.

Yet, there is an alternative. We need only drive over the border to Canada. Or bring some back if we find ourselves in the UK. We have yet to make a special trip just for this purpose, but if we find ourselves abroad, we don’t pass up the opportunity. Indeed, last April, on Gail’s return from Scotland, she bought me some Kit Kats at Heathrow. Bless her.

And then there’s Cadbury chocolate, another sad story, and one that just happens to be in the news in the wake of Kraft’s failed bid last week to take Cadbury over. Once again, Hershey is the culprit. The Wall Street Journal’s front page feature article on Monday told the sad story of Cadbury chocolate lovers forced to subsist here in the US on Hershey’s bland substitute for the real thing. “Hershey has been making Cadbury bars in the U.S. for 21 years. Under a 1988 agreement, the company has the rights to manufacture and distribute Cadbury brands including Dairy Milk, Fruit & Nut and Caramello in the U.S.”

I love the Dairy Milk. The woman described in the opening of the WSJ feature aptly captures my own feelings.

When Gayle Green has a craving for chocolate, she piles her two children into her car and drives 45 minutes to the British Pantry store in Aldie, Va., where she stocks up on Cadbury chocolates imported from the U.K.

“I know — it’s sick, right?” says the 40-year-old social media director for a wedding Web site.

Ms. Greene could buy American-made Cadbury bars at a grocery store just a few minutes from her house in Woodbridge, Va. But since getting her first taste of British chocolate on a high-school trip to the U.K., she wants nothing to do with the stuff made in the U.S. “Oh, it’s so yuck,” she says. “You might as well eat a Hershey bar.”

But my deepest Cadbury love is Cadbury Fingers. They are so small and light, one can easily eat a whole package without even realizing it. A few years ago our friend Cynthia returned from Vancouver with two packages of them just for me. The only problem was, Gail and I had just started phase 1 of the South Beach Diet, to last for two weeks. No cookies or chocolate. Absolutely none. What to do? I decided I would allow myself two fingers a day. Not a whole package. Not three. Just two. No point letting them get old. And that’s what I did. I remain proud of the discipline that I displayed, and I still lost weight.

I believe Cadbury Fingers would be an excellent addition to the South Beach Diet. If only we had ready access to them.

Categories: Business, Food