首页  | 专栏作家

Half measure? 行动不彻底

中国日报网 2019-03-04 15:10

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, particularly “half measure”: Mike’s mistake was to take a half measure when he should have taken a full one.

My comments:

In other words, Mike didn’t go far enough. That being a “mistake” means that it (taking a half measure) didn’t work. Perhaps he should’ve taken a full measure and go the whole nine yards, so to speak.

Measure? Half measure?

Literally, a measure refers to a standard unit showing or expressing the size, amount, or degree of something.

Let’s use the bar room for example. If you buy a shot of whisky and they give you half a measure of it, you won’t be very happy. A measure of whisky is about, let’s say, two fingers tall in a glass. And if you see the bartender only gives you half that amount, just one finger of it, well, you must thank him.

You must thank him for, like, let’s just say, taking responsibility of your health into his own hands. I mean, the bartender must be doing it to limit your total intake of alcohol so that you won’t get senselessly drunk.

So, thank him for that.

Otherwise, you won’t be very happy that you buy something of a certain amount and they only give you half of it. You’re shortchanged. You deserve more.

Anyways, a measure is also a step or a procedure, i.e. a series of steps one takes in order to achieve something. For example, we always hear that the government is taking measures to do this and that, curb inflation, raise wages, clean up the air, etc.

And sometimes the government is accused of taking half measures in order to achieve one or all of those goals – and failing to achieve them.

No surprise there but the point is, if someone takes a half measure in doing something, we may safely infer that they’re half-hearted in the endeavor. Half measures are inadequate measures just as a half measure of whisky in the glass is inadequate.

Not enough, in other words and in short.

All right, here are a few media examples of “half measure” in the metaphorical sense, i.e. inadequate, insufficient and simply not enough:

1. Dom Costa is a wimp.

The state representative from Allegheny has introduced a bill that would ban Pennsylvanians from smoking while driving — as long as a child under the age of 12 is in the car with them. Get caught? You’re fined $250.

“Second-hand smoke poses a series of serious health risks to individuals,” Costa says, “and children are among the most vulnerable because they are still developing physically, have higher breathing rates than adults, and have little control over their indoor environments.”

He’s right. It’s unfair — evil, even — to poison children as the byproduct of a hobby. So it’s time to go a few steps further than Costa is proposing.

It’s time to ban tobacco smoking in Pennsylvania, now and forever.

Full disclosure: I’ve smoked pipes, cigars, and even a few cigarettes in my day. Enjoyed them all. So if you want to nail me for being one of those joyless hypocritical nanny-staters, go right ahead.

What nobody can seriously dispute anymore is this: Smoking maims and kills you. And it can needlessly expose other non-smokers to cancer-causing poisons, potentially subjecting them to misery and astoundingly high hospital bills. Nobody pretends otherwise, not even the tobacco companies themselves: After a mocking John Oliver segment this week, Philip Morris International released a statement that offered this defense: “We take seriously the responsibility that comes with selling a product that is an adult choice and is harmful to health.”

Even cigarette makers agree: Smoking hurts you. Cigarettes are just rat poison sundaes with a hipper marketing campaign.

Let’s pretend that using rat poison as a dessert topping suddenly became a fad. (This is actually an unfair analogy to rat poison — which, after all, does have the usefulness of poisoning rats.) Would we just stand around and offer bromides about freedom while Uncle Phil covered his ice cream in death pellets? Or would we intervene? Might we even, if the problem were persistent enough, shut down the ice cream stand where he purchased his Rat Poison Sundaes? We would, especially if Uncle Phil was letting his nephew Jimmy take bites from the sundae.

So why let smoking continue?

There’s been a major reduction in smoking over the last half-century, the result of a fierce education campaign, but also a never-ending series of half-measures. We didn’t ban cigarette advertising — we just banned it on TV. Then we banned using characters like the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel. Smoke disappeared from flights. Then bars. Then — of all places — public parks. As a result, smoking has dipped to an all-time low among American adults: Less than 18 percent of us light up anymore.

Half-measures were appropriate to getting us here — having all of society quit Cold Turkey during the Cold War might’ve ended with a war against the Russians, just to calm our jittery nerves. But the problem with half-measures is that you never, ever get more than halfway to the goal in any single step. You never quite get all the way there.

So if we’re now at the point where we will consider telling people they can’t smoke in their own property — their car, per Costa’s wishes — we might as well push all the way to the logical end point. Kids can also be exposed to secondhand smoke in houses, apartments, their front stoops. It’s time to ban the sale and production of tobacco smoking products in the state of Pennsylvania.

Otherwise, it’s time to call a truce. If smoking is a matter of freedom, let people do it on their own time, and their own property. But no more half-measures. The time for the incremental approach is over.

- No More Half-Measures: Let’s Ban Smoking in Pennsylvania, by Joel Mathis, PhillyMag.com, February 18, 2015.

2. John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, responding to the Government’s new national database of rogue landlords, said:

“After eight years of failure on housing, this is yet another half measure that will do little to help private renters.

“Since 2010, Conservative Ministers have blocked Labour’s proposals to crack down on rogue landlords and stopped Labour councils from bringing in licensing schemes to drive up standards.

“The next Labour Government will help renters with new consumer rights, longer tenancies and controls on their rents. While the Conservatives cling on to power in Westminster the best hope for millions of renters is to elect Labour councillors and create more Labour councils on 3rd May.”

- John Healey responds to Government’s new national database of rogue landlords, Labour.org.uk, April 6, 2018.

3. The UK Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal by a 230-vote margin. The scale of the defeat–the largest for a government since the 1920s–was beyond what analysts and, apparently, May’s government expected. As soon as the vote result was announced in a packed House of Commons, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn introduced a motion of no-confidence against May, which will be considered tomorrow.

May had led negotiations for a British exit from the EU since she became PM after the 2016 referendum, when 52 percent of British voters chose to leave. May’s entire premiership rests on achieving Brexit. While hardliners who make up a significant portion of her governing coalition want a full, speedy, and complete exit–either with a deal or without–May has sought to negotiate an exit that causes minimal damage to the United Kingdom’s economy and security. By law, the UK is due to officially depart the EU on March 29.

Hardline Brexiteers appeared to have strongly contributed to the Brexit deal’s defeat. They saw the deal as a “half-in, half-out” compromise that would effectively keep the UK in the EU for years while robbing it of any power to change EU rules.

They joined opposition MPs who voted against the deal for a variety of reasons. Some oppose Brexit altogether and either want to cancel it–damn the voters–or believe a second referendum would show that remaining in the EU is, now, more popular than leaving. Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong Euroskeptic who has promised that, if he were prime minister, he would go through with Brexit, argues that the government’s negotiations have lacked transparency, that May’s government has not consulted Parliament to build consensus around its positions, and has come up with a deal that hurts working-class Britons.

Outside of Parliament, news of the deal’s defeat was met with celebratory cheers from a crowd of people waving EU flags–Remainers who believe the deal’s defeat increases the likelihood that Brexit will be cancelled altogether–and from another crowd of Brexiteers who think the deal is a half-measure that doesn’t fulfill the clear mandate of the 2016 referendum.

- The Brexit Deal That Wasn’t, WashingtonMonthly.com, January 15, 2019.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


Coming to grips? 着手解决


Slam dunk? 巨大成功


Arms race 军备竞赛


50-50? 结果很难说


Die-hards? 死硬派


Changing of the guard? 交接换班