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FILIBUSTER

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FILIBUSTER

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri May 20, 2005 6:55 am

• filibuster •

Pronunciation: fi-lê-bê-stêr • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun & Verb

Meaning: 1. A pirate, buccaneer, a free-booter, or a sea-faring adventurer who lives outside the law. 2. A tactic peculiar to the US Senate whereby a speaker may refuse to yield the floor in a debate for as long as he or she can keep talking, thereby preventing a bill from coming to a vote.

Notes: When President Bush submitted the same slate of candidates for judicial positions that were rejected by the Senate last year, the Democrats, now in the minority in the Senate, threatened to filibuster the nominations. The rules of the Senate provide each senator with only one opportunity to speak, but no senator can be silenced unless "the question is called", i.e. a vote on cloture, ending debate, is taken. A cloture vote requires a 3/5 majority to pass (2/3 on a question to change the rules). So, a filibuster succeeds so long as one senator continues to talk and the vote to cut off debate cannot be mustered. A person who filibusters is a filibusterer and the activity is filibustering.

In Play: There are plenty of apolitical uses for the second meaning of this word, especially in reference to verbal bullies: "The discussion was going well until Lotta Bolloni came in and began a filibuster that squelched everyone else." Don't forget that this word does the work of a verb as well as that of a noun: "Lotta filibustered the meeting until most of the attendees politely bowed out and went home."

Word History: Today's word set out as Dutch vrijbuiter "free-booter, pirate". English, however, preferred the more posh-sounding late 18th century French variant, <i>flibustier</i>, with the mysterious substitution of [l] for the original [r]. In the mid-19th century, the word changed to "filibuster," possibly under the influence of Spanish filibustero "buccaneer." The point, however, is that the word started out referring to the senatorial buccaneers who flew off on their own during debate. Later, the meaning slipped over to the process itself. Side note: The <i>boot</i> in <i>free-booter<i> is related to "<i>booty</i> and the phrase "(receive X) to boot," where <i>boot</i> originally meant "advantage, profit".
Last edited by Dr. Goodword on Fri May 20, 2005 10:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Brazilian dude » Fri May 20, 2005 10:36 am

Filibuster reminded me of gerrymander, which could be put forth as a word of the day. It would be interesting to talk about its pronunciation, because I've read one orthoepist say that the g there would be properly hard, since the proper name that originated gerrymander (Gerry + Salamander, if my memory serves me right) was pronounced with a hard g.

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Postby tcward » Fri May 20, 2005 11:40 am

I never thought about this before, but is it called booty because the "treasure chest" was called a boot...? (Just as the Brits still today call the "trunk" (of the car) the "boot"...)

Oh, and as to the origin of gerrymander, Elbridge Gerry was the Massachusetts governor's name, but I don't know squat about how he pronounced it.

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Postby M. Henri Day » Mon May 30, 2005 12:58 pm

Brazilian dude wrote:Filibuster reminded me of gerrymander, which could be put forth as a word of the day. ...


Indeed, despite our discussing it in some detail (on two separate threads, as one was lost in the Great Deluge) on the other forum, the word still remains distressingly apt. A leader in today's New York Times, however, shows that the problem is not unamenable to solution if the political will to resolve it exist (please not[e] the subjunctive)....

Henri

May 30, 2005

Ending the Gerrymander Wars


Congressional redistricting has become a blood sport. Texas kicked off a new era in 2003 when it redrew its lines for a second time after the 2000 census to give the Republicans five more seats. Now, there could be similar midcensus redistricting in several other states. In these partisan machinations, voters are the losers. The new lines eliminate contested elections, and contribute to the bitterly divisive atmosphere in Washington. A new bill in Congress calls for national standards for drawing Congressional districts. It would vastly improve the functioning of our ailing democracy.

Gerrymandering has always been part of American politics, but it has reached disturbing new lows. Party operatives now use powerful computers to draw lines that guarantee their party as many seats as possible. The longstanding tradition that Congressional districts are redrawn only once every 10 years was obliterated in Texas in 2003, when Tom DeLay pushed through a partisan "re-redistricting." Democrats are now talking about doing the same thing in states they control, such as Illinois, New Mexico and Louisiana.

Partisan redistricting puts the interests of political parties ahead of the voters. The parties want districts they know they can win, and they have done a good job of creating them. In the last election, there were only a handful of competitive Congressional races; most races were decided by landslides.

The voters, however, are best served by competitive districts in which candidates need to work to win their votes. The decline of swing districts is having a corrosive effect on Congress, which is more than ever made up of members from the extremes of both parties, who do not need to appeal to voters in the middle for re-election.

Redistricting reform is difficult to achieve at the state level. Most state legislatures have a vested interest in the status quo. And in these partisan times, a party that controls a state government is likely to oppose any redistricting that gives Congressional seats to the other side. National standards are needed that would require every state to draw Congressional districts in a way that put the voters' interests first.

Representative John Tanner, a Tennessee Democrat, introduced a bill last week that would do just that. His bill would create nonpartisan redistricting commissions in every state. The commissions would be prohibited from taking the voters' party affiliations or voting history into account when drawing lines. Instead, the bill would emphasize continuity of counties, municipalities and neighborhoods. The bill would also limit Congressional redistricting to once every 10 years.

It is no surprise that the bill's sponsor, Mr. Tanner, is a moderate Democrat from Tennessee. Southern Democrats, Northern Republicans and moderates from both parties and all regions are the ones being pushed out of Congress by partisan redistricting, and re-redistricting.

Drawing less partisan lines would reinvigorate the center in American politics, and make House members pay more attention to their constituents and less to their party leaders. That is why Mr. Tanner's bill is likely to have a hard time in today's Congress. It is also why it is important for everyone who wants to improve American politics to support it.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
Last edited by M. Henri Day on Mon May 30, 2005 1:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Brazilian dude » Mon May 30, 2005 1:20 pm

please not the subjunctive)....

Can we verb our adverbs as well? :wink:

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Postby M. Henri Day » Mon May 30, 2005 1:45 pm

As long as you don't vrb them (my apologies to the Czechs !)....

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