Friday, September 30, 2016

Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies

by Michael Signer
A demagogue is a tyrant who owes his initial rise to the democratic support of the masses. Huey Long, Hugo Chavez, and Moqtada al-Sadr are all clear examples of this dangerous byproduct of democracy. Demagogue takes a long view of the fight to defend democracy from within, from the brutal general Cleon in ancient Athens, the demagogues who plagued the bloody French Revolution, George W. Bush's naïve democratic experiment in Iraq, and beyond. This compelling narrative weaves stories about some of history's most fascinating figures, including Adolf Hitler, Senator Joe McCarthy, and General Douglas Macarthur, and explains how humanity's urge for liberty can give rise to dark forces that threaten that very freedom. To find the solution to democracy's demagogue problem, the book delves into the stories of four great thinkers who all personally struggled with democracy--Plato, Alexis de Tocqueville, Leo Strauss, and Hannah Arendt.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

It Pays to Increase Your Word Power

Does your lexicon need a lift?
Here are a few words from Talk Like a Genius by Ed Kozak

capitulate (kuh-'pih-chuh-layt) v. - stop resisting.
Only when I wrapped the pill in bacon did my dog finally capitulate.

unequivocal (uhn-ih-'kwih-vuh-kuhl) adj. - leaving no doubt. 
The ump unleashed a resonant, unequivocal "Steee-rike!"

cavalier (ka-vuh-'lir) adj. - nonchalant or marked by disdainful dismissal.
Our driver had a shockingly cavalier attitude about the steep mountain road ahead.

leery ('lir-ee) adj. - untrusting. 
Initially, Eve was a touch leery of the apple.

levity ('leh-vuh-tee) n. - merriment. 
Our family thankfully found moments of levity during the memorial.

penchant ('pen-chunt) n. - strong liking.
Thomas was warned repeatedly about his penchant for daydreaming in meetings.

bifurcate ('biy-fer-kayt) v. - divide into parts.
If anything, Donald Trump has certainly managed to bifurcate the nation.

craven ('kray-vuhn) adj. - cowardly. 
She took a markedly craven position against the weak crime bill.

coterie ('koh-tuh-ree) n. - exclusive group.
Claire's coterie consisted entirely of fellow Mozart enthusiasts and violinists.

stalwart ('stahl-wert) adj. - loyal.
Throughout the senator's campaign, Kerrie has repeatedly shown stalwart support.

travesty ('tra-vuh-stee) n. - absurd imitation.
Her lawyer demanded an appeal, calling the jury's decision a travesty of justice.

hedonism ('hee-duh-nih-zuhm) n. - pursuit of pleasure. 
In Shakespeare's Henry IV, young Prince Hal mistakes hedonism for heroism.

obviate ('ahb-vee-ayt) v. - prevent or render unnecessary. 
Gloria's doctor hoped that physical therapy would obviate the need for more surgery.

excoriate (ek-'skor-ee-ayt) v. - criticize harshly.
Coach Keegan was excoriated by the media for the play calling during the game's final minutes.

penurious (peh-'nur-ee-uhs) adj. - poor.
Paul and Carla entered the casino flush and left it penurious.

If you track down the origins of intelligence, you find the Latin inter ("between, among") plus legere ("choose, read"). 
To be intelligent, then, is literally "to choose among" or "discern." 
The versatile legere also gives us the words legend, lecture, election, and logo.