Thursday, July 14, 2011


I don't live or work in Los Angeles County, but the radio airwaves are filled with discussions about


which is the term being used to describe this weekend's closure of a portion of Interstate 405.

Southern California is dominated by vehicular traffic. In my area, Interstate 10 is bad at certain times of the day, and not so bad at other times. From my observations, Interstate 405 is always bad, and will presumably be worse when


closes access from the San Fernando Valley to the main portion of Los Angeles.

The term itself is a play upon the word "armageddon," which is used in Christianity and other religions to refer to end-of-world events. In this particular case, rather than having the forces of good and evil battle on the Plains of Megiddo, CalTrans workers will battle asphalt on the Pass of Sepulveda.

Businesses are taking advantage of the closure for marketing purposes - since everyone is talking about


businesses can latch on to the trendiness for publicity purposes. My favorite so far - JetBlue is offering a special short-distance airplane flight from Long Beach to Burbank which roughly parallels Interstate 405, and allows travelers to avoid the closed area.

Now I'm sure that some people, especially in the circles in which, are decrying the misuse of the term "Armageddon" to refer to a relatively inconsequential secular event that will be forgotten a week from now. Of course, the term may be misused in the future. Will an effort to raise the drinking age to 25 be referred to as "Barmageddon"? Will a shortage of toilet paper be called "Charmageddon"? Will renewed moves to apply political correctness to comedy clubs be referred to as "Har-de-har-harmageddon"?

But the misuse of this term is nothing like the misuse of another term - a misuse that has been going on since June 1972. In that month, people connected to Nixon Administration officials broke in to an office in a complex in Washington, DC known as the Watergate. This burglary led to the resignation of a President, so it obviously attracted a lot of attention. Ever since then, many scandals (and many non-scandals) have been referred to with words ending in the suffix "-gate." When item XXX happens, you can rest assured that there will be reports on XXXgate very soon afterwards.

My favorite?

"Willgate," as reported by Paul Boller in his book Presidential Campaigns, in which it was revealed--admitted by--George Will, conservative columnist, that he acted as a debate coach for Reagan while supposedly being a "neutral" reporter....

The big concern, as noted by Boller, was that Will praised Reagan's performance in the debate. While this was certainly a lapse in ethics (Louis Gray's ethics disclosure images did not exist at that time), it wasn't end of the world. It didn't even materially influence the presidential election of 1980 - if Will had disclosed his service as a debate coach, would tons of votes have swung to Carter? Not likely.

My fear, as expressed in the title of this post, is that this weekend will result in some sort of scandal. If this happens, the scandal will be called Carmageddongate, or perhaps Geddongate for short.

And if Ashton Kutcher or Justin Bieber tweet about it, this would truly be a sign of the end times.
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