Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Within the next few days, President Obama is due to sign a bill that will finally put an end to a policy that has marked the United States out as extremely backward in comparison to most, if not all developed nations.

The policy, known colloquially as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), is a fudge introduced in the Clinton era to get around the fact that the US does not permit homosexuals to serve openly in the military. The armed forces of Canada, the entire EU, Australia, Israel and even Taiwan and South Africa have allowed openly gay service members for many years. The US stands alone with Turkey in forbidding it, ostensibly on the grounds that the presence of gays in the armed forces "would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability".

DADT created a bizarre situation in that the armed forces recognised that there were gays in the military, but sought to prevent them from being discharged (which they were obliged to do) by introducing a kind of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil": as long as servicemen and -women were not questioned about their sexual orientation or talked about it with fellow soldiers, the fact was ignored. Any that did were discharged immediately, albeit honourably.

Forced to make a decision on the matter by a court order that temporarily lifted DADT, politicians
in Washington spent much of this year wrangling over the issue. A subsequent poll found that 72% of servicemen said they wouldn't have any problems serving alongside gays, lesbians and transsexuals. Although mainly Republicans staged repeated filibusters in an attempt to talk the issue to death, the repeal of DADT - and with it the ban on gays in the US military - was finally approved by the Senate this week, and the National Defense Authorization Act has now arrived on President Obama's desk.

Welcome to the 20th century, America.

Odd Words

Just like in 2009, all this year I have been collecting words that are considered normal in the New World, but which sound strange to British ears. The 2010 list is considerably longer than last year's offering, partly because it spans 12 months rather than nine, but I trust that the quality is no less.

  1. Unwifeable (adj.) - Incapable of finding a husband
  2. Beautifullest
  3. Gangbanger - Member of a gang
  4. Favorite (v)
  5. Touchful (adj.) - Touching
  6. Best (v) - Beat
  7. Merger (v)
  8. Medal (v)
  9. Learnings - Things you have learnt
  10. PDA: public diplays of affection
  11. Recreate (v) - Engage in recreational activities
  12. Shrimp, crab, oyster (v) - Fish for specific seafood
  13. Doneness
  14. Anyways - Anyway
  15. Keyboard (v) - Type on a keyboard
  16. Fan (v) - Become a fan of
  17. Get back-burnered (v)
  18. Third half
  19. Detrain (v) - Get off a train
  20. Potty (v) - Go to the loo
  21. Dialog (v)
  22. Fill-in-able
  23. Black & blue (v) - Bruise
  24. Discussionize (v) - Have a discussion about (i.e. discuss!)
  25. Incest (v) - Commit incest
  26. Surveil (v) - Spy on
  27. Gunshot (adj) - Shot dead
  28. Arrearage - Going into arrears
  29. Derivative (n, official) - Dependent (i.e. family member)
  30. Prayerful
  31. Pre-lit (adj) - An artificial tree sold with fairy lights already on
  32. Crotchal (adj used by airport security personnel conducting pat-downs) - Relating to the crotch area
  33. Gift (v) - Give
  34. Regift (v) - Give received gifts to another person

Friday, December 3, 2010


America is often portrayed as a country of steak-eaters; of avid consumers of big, fat, juicy, barbecued hunks of beef. Although a great deal of beef is indeed consumed, the meat of choice surprisingly turns out to be chicken.

According to some estimates, 23 million chickens a day are slaughtered to satisfy America's hunger for poultry. In fact, so much chicken is served (primarily breaded) in the country which invented Chicken McNuggets and Kentucky Fried Chicken, that my wife has become positively averse to the stuff.

To give you some idea of the phenomenal prevalence of chicken in American cuisine, allow me to offer you an unadulterated list of the poultry-related items on this month's menu at our children's elementary (junior) school, where they have a choice of three main dishes:
  • 1.12. Chicken noodle soup, chicken Caesar wrap
  • 2.12. Sweet-and-sour chicken with rice, diced chicken with rice
  • 3.12. Grilled chicken sandwich, baked chicken rings with rice
  • 6.12. Chicken fajita salad
  • 7.12. Chicken tacos, baked chicken tenders with fruit cup
  • 8.12. Chicken corn dog with potato wedges
  • 9.12. Chicken patty sandwich
  • 10.12. (No chicken on menu)
  • 13.12. Grilled chicken salad
  • 14.12. Chicken fajitas, chicken pasta al fredo
  • 15. 12. Chicken nuggets with hot corn
  • 16.12. Grilled chicken ranch wrap
  • 17.12. Chicken tenders with mashed potatoes