Those of us who use the English language as a key component of our professional life understand there are two parallel forms of English. One is the workaday active-voice English we use in our real lives. In this language, we do things, we see things, we take actions (we eat, sleep, say, decide). “I called mom.” “John beat the kids.” “I drank a six pack of beer.”

The other is what we might call Shadow Passive-voice English which is used by, well, many of us when we’re trying to put distance between ourselves and what we’re saying or when we’re trying to make what we’re saying more important than it is. Confusing? Here’s a classic example:

A memo goes out to everyone. It reads “It has been decided the staff must be downsized.” That’s the passive voice. No decider, just the decision. A bunch of people are going to be fired but…well…no one decided they were going to be fired. It’s that silly staff needed to be downsized.

You would think that war would be a tough place to use the passive voice. “We blew the shit out of Khadafi” seems pretty active voice to me. But, alas, the US military is one of the most successful bureaucracies ever invented. Thus:

At the Pentagon, Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney said that any of Gaddafi’s ground forces advancing on the rebels were open targets.

“If they are moving on opposition forces … yes, we will take them under attack,” he told reporters.

Take them under attack? Whatever happened to Today’s Action Army?

Today, it’s S***h P***n clambering out of the Republican Presidential Candidates 2012 Clown Car. The former governor of a large cold state has called the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities “frivolous institutions.” Now you may honestly believe that it’s inappropriate for the federal government to fund them, but it takes a real tardwad to call them “frivolous.”

The NEA has supported artists and arts education since its inception 45 years ago. Its support for music, visual arts, dance, theater and every other form of art has made America a better place for all of us. For someone who shoots animals from airplanes and who “starred” in a reality show to call the NEA “frivolous” simply shows how callow and unsophisticated this person is. She is not a serious person in the sense that a person aspiring to leadership must be serious.

People on television say and do ridiculous things all the time. In a world where attracting attention to oneself in the pursuit of money, power or both is encouraged, it’s understandable that she might actually believe her own bullshit. But, ex-governor, you are not a serious person. You are shallow and unworthy of anything beyond tabloid attention.

Newton Leroy “Newt” Gingrich is the latest clown to climb out of the little car we call “Republican 2012 Presidential Hopefuls.” He’s free, he’s loose and he’s got lots of sage advice for Barack Obama about how to conduct foreign policy. Hell YES! We only got two wars going on right now, Newt. Hell YES let’s do whatever it takes to liberate Libya! Hell NO we don’t want to have France or Great Britain or Denmark taking the lead on this one. It’s a matter of MANLY PRIDE!

“I was frankly very disappointed that Sarkozy did not share with us his Final Four picks,” Gingrich told reporters. “And I think it’s his failure to understand the importance of the Final Four that allowed him to focus on Libya in a way that, you know, clearly, if he had understood the American system, he would have realized this was not a good week to deal with Libya, because this was the week to deal with Kansas, Ohio State, and things that are really important.”

Newt, there’s a difference between biting sarcasm and snark. You’re a snarkmeister.

Boss Hogg from Dukes of Hazzard

No matter how much we try to deny it, one state has to be at the bottom of the heap. Perhaps more kindly, one state has to be the one that makes all the others look good. That state is Mississippi. Mississippi’s governor is a guy named Haley Barbour who actually has delusions of being the Republican presidential candidate in 2012. On March 15, 2011 he had the outsized cojones to say that President Barack Obama’s policies are “a threat to our economic future.” Whoa! Big words from the governor of Mississippi!

Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi

In a previous post, we looked at the pathetic rankings Mississippi holds in important health-related categories. While revealing, those rankings don’t tell the truly sad story of Mississippi. Let’s start with overall Best States to Live rankings. Take a guess. If you guessed last, you were right. It ranks last in the percentage of children who live in poverty. It ranks last in the percentage of all people who live in poverty.

Mississippi is dead last in the percentage of people who have finished high school. It has more children eligible for free lunches that any other state. It is last in the percentage of couples with both people in the workforce (a good statistic if you support traditional 1950s-style families I guess). Mississippi is last in the percent of people who can read at the 8th grade level. Mississippi is at the absolute bottom of the list of US states as ranked by the American Human Development Index. It has the lowest average ACT scores in the US. Mississippi students scored the lowest of any state on the National Assessments of Educational Progress in both math and science. It is 46th (!)  in the American Education Legislative Exchange Council’s Report Card on Education.

Mississippi is not last in all categories. For example, it ranks second among the states in terms of receiving federal aid. It is also second in the ratio of federal taxes paid to taxpayer money that is given to the state ($2.02 for every dollar collected). Mississippi tops the nation in the percent of children who go to church every Sunday and is second in the number of Walmart Superstores per capita.

In an informal poll I conducted in the hallway, an amazing 100 percent of respondents said they felt Mississippi’s pathetic ranking among the states in meaningful health, education and economic categories probably would influence their decision whether or not to support him in 2012.

Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, is leading an effort to get the federal government to distribute block grants to the states and let the states decide how to manage health care. Let’s look at the numbers: Mississippi  is 50th in overall health, 50th in deaths from heart disease, 50th in child poverty, 50th in prevalence of smoking, 47th in cancer deaths, 49th in high blood pressure, 48th in diabetes rates, 50th in premature deaths, 49th in physical activity, 50th in per capita income, 50th in pre-term births, 50th in obesity, 50th in teen births, 48th in high cholesterol, and 47th in stroke.

Haley Barbour is a former tobacco lobbyist. And Haley Barbour wants to be president!