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Thinking About Semantics

by Fred Cederholm

The United Spinning(s) of America is as American as apple pie.

I’ve been thinking about semantics. Actually I’ve been thinking about books, hypothetical contingencies, our financial messes, election 2008, and USA - the United Spinning(s) of America. Semantics are word games. Semantics involve choosing/using “loaded words and phrases” to bias opinions in favor of your agenda, your objective, and your side. In the alternative, careful word choices undercut your opponent’s position, strategy, and objectives. Accentuate the positive(s) and mitigate the negative(s) are first and foremost the game plan in economics, finance, marketing, and politics!

You see the forthcoming “tell-all” by former Presidential Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, that the American Public was mislead to war in Iraq by the Bush Administration and that the American Press/media dropped the ball in the reporting of the events/justifications leading up to the invasion on March 19th, 2003 got a great deal of media brouhaha last week. The snips and snibbets leaked during the book’s pre-release condemning the Administration (and the media) for the “non-truths” divulge nothing new. (McClellan doesn’t use the word “lies” behind the justifications for war or outing of Valerie Plame by Veep Chief of Staff Libby.) Most of US/us already “knew” or at least suspected as much. No smoking guns are revealed here. If there were... we’d have heard about them! The White House and the “speaking” friends have been amazingly silent in their direct denials – choosing rather to discredit the book as merely the disgruntled musings of a frustrated former employee seeking to cash in on his Executive Branch tenure. This also is nothing new. Truth, or true “reality,” lies somewhere in between.

Famed prosecutor and New York Times best selling author of Helter Skelter (the Tate- LaBianca murders by the Charles Manson cult), Vincent Bugliosi, has only just penned a “fictional” work – The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. The McClellan book’s premises/speculations pale in comparison to the implications of this Bugliosi work. While pre-distribution/marketing presents “Prosecution” as a tight, meticulously researched legal case putting George W. Bush on trial in an American courtroom for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers fighting in Iraq, there is already festering speculation abroad that future actions could be brought against Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, and/or Rumsfeld in ex-patriot jurisdictions for atrocities of war and crimes against humanity. While such may have been ultimate the fate of Noriega, Pinochet, Saddam, and Hussein’s co-horts; any extradition of Bush poobahs to face the music at some international tribunal just isn’t going to happen – trust me!

There will undoubtedly be more leaked disclosures of concerted “non-truth” telling justifying the war. I’m certain there were “good” reasons for this war, we just haven’t been made privy to them. It is not the rich, the well-born, and the powerful who pay the price of major conflicts with their blood, their injuries, their sacrifices, and their deaths. Wars for economic benefit of corporations, financial moguls, or vested interests just “don’t play well in Peoria” – you need to fire up the patriotism and the intangible beliefs of the masses to garner the necessary support as the casus belli – the justification for acts of war. The post-election Congress will undoubtedly convene more hearing investigations “to put the matter to rest” (as in bury it for a generation or more). There will be the obligatory: “Mr./Miss/Ms... what did the President know, and when did he know it?” Like Watergate of some 30 years ago, not much will come of the costly Congressional hearings, and not much will really change – cynical yes, but ultimately true.

Despite the $70+ plus BILLION “invested” in the US by foreign sovereign wealth funds since last August and a MUCH larger amount of freshly printed bail-out bucks from the FED; things are NOT improving.

The public was not only left out of the loop regarding the real justifications for war, we are still being kept in the dark regarding the severity and duration of our looming financial messes. Things are far from well in Mudville. Uncle $ugar is stepping up to the plate like the mighty Casey to turn the game around, but despite the $70+ plus BILLION “invested” in the US by foreign sovereign wealth funds since last August and a MUCH larger amount of freshly printed bail-out bucks from the FED; things are NOT improving. We the people... don’t as yet have a clue what will be the ultimate costs in write-offs/write-downs for ALL that looming exposure out there. Those who might be in the know, aren’t talking.

This week should finalize the Democans and Republicrats candidates for this Presidential run in 2008. Will they fess up to the American public in their campaign messages of “change” and “straight talk” with truthful and honest disclosures of where we are, and where “they” plan to take US/us in their administrations? After all... there is tradition at stake, the USA prevails - the United Spinning(s) of America is as American as apple pie.

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Author’s Note: I didn’t circulate last week’s column TH*NK*NG (RESPECT) because at the time it seemed too local in focus. Plus... I didn’t have access to email for almost 4 days while my ISP service provider did a MAJOR system’s upgrade and conversion. Still... there are points made in that one which take on special meaning in light of this week’s TH*NK*NG (SEMANTICS).

Thinking about Respect

I’ve been thinking about respect. Actually I’ve been thinking about the Memorial Day 2008 observances, Woodlawn Cemetery, the St. Johns Program, Richard Erickson, small town patriotism, and the 1 plus percent. Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May. It began to honor the soldiers who died in the American Civil War, and after World War I - “the war to end all wars.” It was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action as well as honoring living veterans. In the widest context, it provides an opportunity to honor anyone who is no longer with us.

You see my hometown - the little Village of Creston - like many thousands of small communities across this land make special observances on Memorial Day. Local businessman, Lyle Headon, a US Marine and Vietnam War Veteran coordinates the ceremonies and program which this year occurred at both Creston’s Woodlawn Cemetery and St John’s Lutheran Church. Woodlawn is a beautifully pastoral setting about a mile North of Creston. There is a meandering stream on two sides. Just to the North is Brody’s Grove where the original settlement was located before the railroad came thru and the village of “Dement” relocated to a “crest of a hill” along the iron horse tracks becoming Creston (nee Crest-town).

It has been a Creston tradition to gather at the cemetery to pay respects to those who have served this nation in the military in both times of war and in times of peace. Every year there is a roll call of names of all the departed veterans interred there. Woodlawn is the final resting place for veterans from the War of 1812, the America Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, Word War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Each veteran’s grave displays the appropriate bronze flag holder (for their service) and an American flag. Normally, weather permitting, there were patriotic songs, a special speaker, taps, and a bagpipe medley before a fellowship meal was shared by the participants at the cemetery. This year most of the program, and the common meal occurred in town at St. Johns Church.

The 2008 keynote speaker was Richard Erickson (US Army Reserves) who has only just recently completed his second tour of duty in Iraq. Richard is a quiet, soft spoken man of few words; but in his presentation, he so eloquently shared thoughts on an experience that will forever be a part of his life experience (and now ours). He looked upon his action as both a duty and a responsibility requiring sacrifices and support beyond his own person. He drew upon his family, his community, his faith, and his friends. He singled out his brother John, Leslie (John’s wife) and his mother Donna, for taking care of his two teen age children during his 23 month absence for special thanks. And...he thanked the audience of friends and neighbors for their letters, packages, and prayers. He was SO glad to be home!

In describing the ongoing conflict over there, Richard made a distinction that is so often missed in the discussions about both Iraq and Afghanistan. This is “a war,” but it is a war without distinct borders, without distinct sovereign players, without distinct ethnicities, or even distinct nationalities. (Richard’s words.) So often you just don’t know who is a friend, or a foe, until the shooting begins. These are very important components because without distinctly definable players, it is almost impossible to define success, failure, or achieve a conclusion. It is a warfare of “-ISMs” - (Fred’s words, not Richard’s.) The 150, or so, attendees hung on his every word, and were all deeply moved. The same was true for oldest attending veteran’s (Carl Hill) presentation about the “Spirit of Creston” which followed Richard’s.

In the conversations across many of the tables during the communal meal held in the Church’s fellowship hall, a primary focus remained about our ongoing presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is very understandable given that literally everyone in this little Northern Illinois community of under 600 has at least one family member, friend, and/or loved one (or more) presently serving in Afghanistan, or Iraq, (or has one in training and soon to be deployed there). There is Jason (1), Greg, Jason (2), Ann, Kevin, and Derek already over there. Adam is in training at Camp Pendleton, and Charlie is in training at Fort Benning. I should point out that these are ONLY the names of those who are aged 24 and younger! This alone equates to well over 1% of our total local population (of all ages). Please TH*NK about the implications of THAT for a moment!!!

For us in this small rural community in America’s Heartland each name equates to a face with a family – all of whom we know and love. We are the “Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.” Please remember these young people (and their families) in your Memorial Day thoughts and prayers.

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Copyright 2008 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at

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This story was published on June 2, 2008.