Raucci case to be aired on public radio

If any of you Steve Raucci fans out there are suffering from withdrawal, you can relax: Help is on t

If any of you Steve Raucci fans out there are suffering from withdrawal, you can relax: Help is on the way.

National Public Radio is going to do a program, or a segment of a program, on him this weekend as part of its “This American Life” series.

Locally it will be broadcast on WAMC as follows:

Friday at 10 p.m. on 90.3 FM and 1400 AM.

Saturday at 8 a.m. on 90.3 FM and at 4 p.m. on both 90.3 FM and 1400 AM.

By way of full disclosure and what we now call transparency, I hereby confess that I contributed in a small way to this program by submitting to an interview for it by the able producer Sarah Koenig, who turned out to know more about l’affaire Raucci than I did. I’ve never known a radio or television reporter to absorb so much information about a story in so limited a time.

When we talked a couple of months ago many of the details of the scandal were already fading from my mind, but they were still bright and fresh in hers, and at times I felt like I ought to be interviewing her instead of the other way around.

For those of you who were not plugged in to Schenectady matters during the past two years, I am referring here to the upheaval in the Schenectady City School District caused by the fellow who was in charge of buildings and grounds and used his position to terrorize his subordinates while insinuating himself into the good graces of the school administration.

And by terrorizing I mean vandalizing houses and cars and planting explosives on them, offenses for which he is now serving a term of 23 years to life in Dannemora.

He was quite a favorite for a while, organizing his subordinates to do the grunt work of elections, thus helping to pass the annual budget and get candidates elected to the school board.

For his service to the public, he collects a state pension of $76,067 a year in his retirement, regardless of his lodging in a maximum security prison.

As far as this American life goes, he was hardly typical, but of course that’s what made him interesting, his uniqueness. And it wasn’t just him — a rogue employee is possible anywhere — it was the fact that the school administration indulged him for so long that made his story fascinating.

Anyway, if you miss him, I sympathize. I miss him too, and I will surely be tuning in this weekend.

Tell your friends.

Word watch

At a recent Republican/Tea-Party rally I asked a demonstrator if she thought President Obama was a socialist, and after thinking for a moment she said judiciously, “I think he has an agenda,” which as a word watcher I found noteworthy.

Agenda is one of those words that have undergone a shift recently, from meaning a perfectly neutral “list of things to be done at a meeting,” (Webster’s New World Dictionary), to a somewhat less neutral platform of objectives, to, finally, a sinister program hidden from public view.

Obama may not be a socialist, but he certainly has some nefarious goals that he’s working toward, the woman seemed to suggest. The nearest term from earlier language would be “ulterior motive,” which you don’t hear much anymore. Everyone we don’t trust these days has an “agenda.”

“Issue” is another such word, which I confess annoys me endlessly, having shifted from being a neutral “point, matter, or question to be disputed or decided,” (same dictionary) to being a “problem,” with no gain to anyone. So now someone stays out of work because he has an issue with his back and files for divorce because he has an issue with his wife.

“Struggle” is another one that has shifted, becoming a euphemistic substitute for simply having a hard time. We’re told that a student is struggling with math, and we know that he’s probably not struggling but just having a hard time of it. The Yankees are struggling? We understand that they’re losing. A celebrity is struggling with alcholism? We know he’s a lush.

If I could fine every journalist a dollar who massacres the word “struggle” in this way, I could retire on the results.

Then there’s “oxymoron,” employed as a gussied up substitute for the old-fashioned “contradiction in terms.” Students of rhetoric know that the true meaning of “oxymoron” is a figure of speech in which apparently conflicting words express an underlying truth, as when someone is said to be “conspicuous by his absence,” or when parting is said to be “sweet sorrow.”

Now, alas, the word has been downgraded, and every commentator desiring to display his vocabulary eagerly calls every contradiction he comes across an oxymoron, and then looks as pleased with himself as if he had discovered a new planet.

I don’t know what the world is coming to.

Categories: Opinion

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