03/08/2013 10:37 am ET Updated May 08, 2013

Sequestration and Other Governmental Non-Sequiturs

I've often wondered if there's a particular government office, perhaps called the ONS (Office of Non-Sequiturs) that comes up with these unusual names for what transpires in the grand marble halls of the Pentagon and Congress (a rather sexually charged name itself). Some of the most memorable include, but are not limited to: Operation Desert Storm, Operation Valiant Guardian, Operation Urgent Fury, Operation Eagle Claw, Operation Spartan Scorpion, etc. I mean you'd never hear of an Operation Pillow Fight or Operation Fuzzy Coat or Operation Silly Walk. No, those don't sound military enough, though Operation Island Breeze does sound more like a vacation retreat rather than the invasion of the tiny island of Grenada.

That got me to thinking about the latest in a long line of Congressional non-sequiturs; namely, "sequestration." I asked myself: Just what does that mean? Are we talking about what the OED defines as an act or the action of sequestering, banishment, exile esp. Ecclesiastical, a cutting off from the privileges of Church-membership, excommunication or the separation of a matter of controversy from the contending parties and its reference to an umpire or arbitrator or seizure of the possessions of a subject by the state; esp. the act of a belligerent power in seizing debts owing from its own subjects to the opposing power. Or is it merely seclusion, isolation and if so, what's being secluded and isolated? The question is: Who or what is going to be sequestered? I mean even the name of H.R. 5872 (112th): Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 is a non-sequitur. A transparent sequestration? What the hell does that mean?

Or are we alluding to British law which defines sequestration as "the act of taking someone's property until a debt has been paid?" If so, one has to ask how that corresponds to what's going on in Congress. Once the debt has been paid, how and when is the property returned? And who holds the property in abeyance? And what, exactly, is the property being held? If the budget laws allow the executive branch to "undo" congressional appropriations with across-the-board spending cuts, then how does that translate to sequestration amounts of $1.2 trillion over the next decade? Where's that $1.2 trillion go? Into whose account might one find that money? The D.C. Sheriff's Office? It's all so confusing.

Perhaps, another name would be more fitting. Rather than the "sequestration" something like the "fornication" which would make more sense etymologically since the word comes from the Latin fornix, from which fornicti, the ancestor of fornication, is derived, and meant "a vault, an arch." The term referred to a vaulted cellar or similar place where prostitutes plied their trade. This sense of fornix in Late Latin yielded the verb fornicr, "to commit fornication," from which is derived fornicti, "whoredom, fornication." Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Rotunda is a kind of vaulted ceiling which, to my mind, makes the entire notion of the sequester less an act of sequestration than an act of fornication. But what would I know; I'm just a part of what's left of the melting middle class.

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