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John Palmer: Making sense of names

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- What's in a name? Centuries ago the world's most famous bard asked this question, and then answered it poetically: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." As it happens there are areas of modern endeavor that summon up some not very sweet-smelling names.

The most interesting of these endeavors locally is mining and the infamous associated name is "Patriot." Like "rose," "patriot" summons up stirring, pleasant images; the former of gorgeous natural beauty, the latter of unselfish generosity in service of country. But, as we now know, Patriot Coal was formed for a reason that was far from unselfish, since the apparent purpose of this firm was to aggregate pension liabilities from other firms and then to declare bankruptcy in an attempt to squirm out of these contractual obligations.

Another misleading name of interest locally is "NRA." No, this organization is not any more a grassroots collection of sportsmen; it is rather a profit-maximizing industrial manufacturing group of gunmakers and sellers. And if the best way to achieve profit maximization is to instill paranoia in misguided "patriots" who are all-too-ready use their guns to fight America's "true" enemies, so be it.

Finally, in the medical area we have the subtly misleading nickname of "Obamacare" (or Romneycare or Hillarycare). Those who hear these labels are invited to suppose that the program in question is mainly the whim of a single politician. Since any attempt to improve our current flawed system of providing medical care can be thus derisively labeled, no progress can be made if the trick works.

What to do?

My suggestion to unions is to demand (only) money -- cash on the barrelhead -- no deferred compensation of any kind.

For the NRA question, I suggest we never again use those three initials by themselves. Let us henceforth call this organization the NRMA, so that we remain under no illusions as to the purpose of this nefarious organization.

And for the medical area, I suggest for now we make do with the ACA (which has some good points) but aim our sights at Medicare for All, as the best overall solution to the wasteful and cruel system we now have.

Meretricious monikers make messes; money-mad men may mislead masses; meaningful messages mend malicious misguidance!

Palmer, of Charleston, is a former marketing (and hospitality management) professor and occasional poet.


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