Imping Weeds in the Bushes

With news of our virtuous, straight-talking president being linked to the CIA leak case, there will undoubtedly be renewed calls for impeachment.

So, naturally, as a word columnist, I started looking into the etymology of the word in my Webster's Dictionary of Word Origins. There was no entry for impeach or impeachment. Curiously, there was an entry for ''imp.'' The word usually refers to either a small demon or a mischievous child. But, according to Webster's, the word is rooted (pun intended) in the field of horticulture, taken apparently from two Latin verbs: putare (to trim, or prune) and imputare (to graft into or on).

Webster's says it wasn't until the 14th century that ''imp'' was put to metaphorical use, meaning offspring or child. A century later imp took on negative connotations, and in 1753 Edmund Spenser popularized it as a pejorative term in a poem called ''A Long Story:"

"Thereabouts there lurk'd/ A wicked Imp they call a Poet, Who prowl'd the country far and near/ Bewitch'd the children of the peasants…"

A self-described moderate conservative reader sends me chiding but thoughtful notes from time to time. Though he's a distinguished poet, he's not a wicked imp. Recently, he sent me a news clip about how liberals tend to have fewer children than conservatives, which seems strange to me because I was raised in a family with conservative values. I was nurtured in a church that preached a conservative theology and I attended private Catholic school for most of my school life. I also have three children. And what about all those ''welfare queens'' popping out illegitimate babies faster than Dick Cheney's pheasant-hunting gun can target a friend's face?

Anyway, the article goes on to imply that if the trend continues, conservatives will outnumber liberals in the not-too-distant future, as if political ideology is biologically determined. It also assumes conservatives don't already outnumber liberals, which many conservatives claim.

There may be a nugget of truth to this kind of neo-wishful thinking, but then again, I've come to know more than a few former conservatives who've gradually changed their minds, in part because they realized family values and having a personal relationship with the ''truth, the life and the way'' have nothing to do with remaining silent in the face of usury, debt slavery, ''benign neglect'' of the poor (as Katrina unveiled), or justifying wars of choice, manipulating available intelligence, using torture, illegal spying on U.S. citizens, and the obvious ongoing cover-up in connection with the outing of Valerie Plame.

If a war correspondent reports on anything other than ''mission accomplished'' there are cries of treason coming from conservative quarters. Where's all the loose-lips-sinks-ships hand-wringing over the Plame affair? Maybe this is overstating the case but, conservative or liberal, isn't it obvious what's happened in Iraq? After imposing 13 years of sanctions on the Iraqi civilian population, which killed 500,000 children under the age of 5, we launched a pre-emptive invasion in which thousands more were killed, based on fabricated intelligence. Then, somehow, most ''informed'' Americans believed we would be welcomed as liberators and that the war would be paid with Iraqi oil.

Meanwhile, bin Laden, seeking a way to impose an intolerant Islamicism across the Arab world, decided to bait the U.S. into invading the most secular and westernized Arab nation on the planet, which alienated our allies, causing (perhaps) irreparable damage to U.S. credibility, dividing the country and plunging the nation into debt.

That's why we can't simply say, let's stop debating the past. The past is still with us because now, not only has bin Laden yet to be captured, but his followers are getting real-world battle experience in Iraq; to say nothing of the fact that because we removed Saddam and installed a Shia-dominated government over a bitterly sectarian Iraq, a civil war has been unleashed in which we are seen as killing Sunnis on behalf of Shias, who happen to be intimately tied to a nuclear-producing Islamicist Iranian government Bush calls part of the ''axis of evil.''

I can picture bin Laden thanking Allah that the U.S. invaded Iraq with plans to ''stay the course.''

That's why the we-have-to-stay-in-Iraq argument is so shortsighted and dangerous. It's also why war critics keep harping the U.S. military presence in Iraq as precisely what's fanning the flames of the insurgency'' the exact opposite of our stated goals.

It boggles the mind, but impeachment only leaves us with Cheney. We need another way to imp the weeds in the bushes.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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