" /> I write: July 2005
Curmudgeonalia
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July 6, 2005

don’t think of an elephant!

George Lakoff – 1931498717

Howard Dean calls Lakoff: “One of the most influential political thinkers of the progressive movement.” As a near libertarian conservative I can only hope so.

“It is a common folk theory of progressives that ‘the facts will set you free.’ . . . It is a vain hope. Human brains just don’t work that way. Framing matters. Frames once entrenched are hard to dispel.” (Especially true if you are of the common stripe and one of the thoughtless unwashed.)

The hypothesis driving this readable, informational, and not rarely (if unintentionally) humorous book is that you have to “know your values and frame the debate.” It needn’t be particularly devious, but is focused upon a “better way” to say what you wish to communicate. Well chosen expressions of empathy and suasion are best, and euphemisms are pretty good. Pejorative implications are o.k. if all else fails. (Orwellian double-speak is what Republicans use.)

He claims that Republicans are the originators of this maneuver, forgetting that the “progressives” were first when they framed the abortion debate by making it pro-choice--instead of pro-abortion, effectively implying that opposing abortion was therefore and necessarily “anti-choice.” Frame the debate as being for a mother’s right to choose and you will win. Forget moral issues . . . they did, and they did win! (though it is increasingly becoming a pyrrhic victory.)

Welfare arguments are framed with progressives being in favor of nurturance and care while the opposition is always “against social programs that take care of people.” As Frank, in What’s the Matter With Kansas,[below]Lakoff cannot accept that there are real differences of philosophy here . . . and seemingly almost everywhere. One side has to be pro, the other con (con’s bad.) Properly frame the debate and you will win.

He notes that Republicans (having learned) are effective in framing tax cuts as tax relief, and are impacting the social security debates by framing it in such a way as to imply that, like taxes, it is actually the payer’s money, not the government’s.

“And who is the United Nations?” [answer: mostly] Underdeveloped countries . . . “children” in the eyes of those who want to dictate, not help. He then detours into a discussion of how a “nurturant” parent empathizes with children, providing protection, shelter and comfort, ending with a list: freedom, opportunity, prosperity, fairness, open, two-way communication, cooperation, trust, honesty . . . which are progressive values. He believes that conservatives do not share in these--and are actually against most of them. Being a nurturant parent is inconsistent with an “authoritative” view-point, and especially if it is a Christian one.

Like Kansas, again, he notes that “economics is based upon the assumption that people will naturally always think in terms of their self-interest. . . . . [and] Democrats are shocked or puzzled when the voters do not vote their self interest.”

The real [and awful] Republican practice is: “They [actually] say what they . . . believe,” while liberals and progressives (L&P’s) follow polls and decide upon moving right, when moving right never helps them. The left needs to express what they actually believe.

Jeez . . . I just can’t help loving these quotes. They are so damaging! The L&P’s react by saying “Those conservatives are bad people; they are using Orwellian language. . . . They are deceivers. Bad. Bad.”

“All true, [his words] but we should recognize that they use Orwellian language precisely when they have to . . . imagine supporting a ‘Dirty Skies Bill’ or a ‘Forest Destruction Bill’ or a ‘Kill Public Education Bill.’ . . . [after all] people do not support what [conservatives] are really trying to do.” My God what Neanderthalian Nazis!

Bush, when he talks to women uses terms like love, from the heart, for the children, etc. We all know he doesn’t mean it, he’s just prevaricating for votes. (No wonder the left always misunderestimates the man.) Well, at least “on the left, the highest value is helping . . . as many people as you can.” That is where their money is spent, not on ideological issues!

Conservative foundations have millions of dollars, while progressives have to spread their paltry sums of money around. (Perhaps he’s not heard of George Soros or People for the American Way?)

Interestingly, tort reform “will ruin” the Democrats in Texas . . . tort lawyers provide three-quarters of the money going to Democrats there, and reform would cut off these funds. Is anyone besides me concerned that 75% of all contributions to Democrats in Texas come from tort lawyers?

As for energy, we require “massive investment in alternative energy.” Does he remember the billions which disappeared down the rat hole called “Synfuels?”

Humorously, he observes that Bush is successful in large measure due to NASCAR fans. L&P’s have to get a handle on them . . . but how does a rational, elite person relate to people who spend their week-ends watching fools drive in circles, at dangerous speeds, all-the-while turning to the left? Further, NASCAR dads identify with “the strict father rules and stereotypes” (which are different from nurturant parents, don’tcha know?)

To understand Muslims you must understand that Taliban means “student.” Those who teach hate in Islamic schools must be replaced—and we in the West cannot replace them. “Moderate and liberal Muslims” must step forward . . . . yea . . . all ten of them.

I just can’t go on. This informative tome spells out, in grim detail, the problems the L&P’s have. They need to better express their strong values. Keep trying, folks, you just keep driving more people away. Most don’t understand a lot of that buncombe, and those who do can’t believe anyone with an I.Q. in double digits would believe it, let alone admit it.

I try to understand, and desperately want believe that these are thoughtful, concerned people with whom I simply disagree, but it is getting harder by the year.

Posted by respeto at 3:35 PM

What’s the Matter with Kansas?

Thomas Frank - 080507774X

Reading this book is akin to enduring the screech of fingernails on a chalk board. While Frank makes some good points, if rarely in a civilized or thoughtful way, he reminds me of the philandering professor in Moonstruck to whom Olympia Dukakis comments: “what you don’t know about women is a lot!” What Frank doesn’t know about the red state people he so scorns is . . . well . . . a lot!

You’ll see numerous quotes in this review. They are simply too graphic not to use.

A casual disclosure midway thru the book may be the key to his derisive attitude: “I did not win a spot at some highly selective eastern college . . . . I did not understand what had caused me to be sifted one way and them [his upper middle class classmates] the other.” Perhaps it was this rejection which bred all of the contempt?

“How can anyone who has ever worked for someone else vote Republican?” (except for a Kennedy or two, is there anyone on the planet who hasn’t worked for someone at some time or another?) Or . . . “People getting their fundamental interests wrong is what American political life is all about. . . . This derangement has put the Republicans in charge . . . [and shifted] the Democrats to the right.” He believes as an article of faith that business and labor ought to be at each other’s throats constantly, but observes that they agree because the stupid blue-collars vote bad economics in exchange for fundamentally unimportant issues like abortion, fetal stem-cell research, federal judges, the supreme court, etc. The country “seems more like a panorama of madness and delusion . . . [imagine] sturdy blue-collar patriots reciting the Pledge while they strangle their own life chances.” Phheew!

Haranguing “fundamentalists” (whom he lumps with the “blue-collars”) overlooks the fact that there are myriad people who simply don’t agree with him. He concurs with Howard Dean that Republicans are evil. Then there is the obligatory attack on foes of abortion and stem cell research, who are troglodytes, trolls, etc. “Class animus,” he posits, is the theme in this “Great Backlash” (of the red-state imbeciles.)

“Thanks to [liberalism’s] chokehold on the nation’s culture, liberalism is thus [believed to be] in power whether its politicians are elected or not; it rules over us even though Republicans have prevailed in . . . elections . . . It doesn’t matter that liberals have long since lost their power over government. In the backlash mind liberalism is still what changes our mores . . . what makes or interprets the laws.” He doesn’t seem to recognize that there is mountain of truth in this convoluted statement. The courts usually do decide for the liberals, and liberals really don’t need to be in power anymore. If you don’t believe it consider the very recent liberal decision on the taking of private property for private use, as we marvel over their decision on the Ten Commandments fiasco. It is clear that liberals will “Bork” any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court.

“None of what I have described here would make sense were it not for a critical rhetorical move: the systematic erasure of the economic.” He refuses to accept that some people consider factors beyond economics when they decide who they are, what they believe, how they live, how and what they want their children taught.

He launches into Adelphia, Tyco, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Enron, etal, forgetting that this activity occurred on Clinton’s watch, and prosecutions are proceeding under Bush; and rather well it appears, since most all have been convicted and most of those given heavy sentences, and Enron is soon to be in the dock.

After exploring the thoughts of “rightist” Kansans he declares that “Few of the [conservative] writers I have described . . . are meticulous or systematic thinkers. Their theories don’t hold water; their books are jam-packed with errors and omissions and preposterous interpretations.” That may be so, but his book is certainly not an example of meticulous, systematic thinking either. It is a vicious diatribe which demonstrates no understanding of, or insight into dealing with people of alternate persuasions.

He reviews how Roe v. Wade “demonstrated the power of the legal profession to override everyone,” quashing the debate over abortion and settling the issue by fiat, thus cementing forever the stereotype that liberalism is a doctrine of a tiny clique of experts securing their “reforms” by judicial command rather than democratic consensus. Exactly! “When Scalia accused his Supreme Court colleagues . . . [when overturning sodomy laws] . . . more out of deference to the ‘law profession’s anti-anti-homosexual culture’ than respect for any particular provision of constitutional law, he was invoking this stereotype.” Exactly!! What prevents Frank from seeing that this is a fact not a stereotype?

Finally, “it didn’t matter that the Swifties argument crumbled under the slightest scrutiny” . . . etc. Kerry’s problem was that the argument didn’t crumble. Further explication enhanced its verity. Kerry’s continuing refusal to release his complete military record suggests that there is something more there still. We know of course that he is as average the adversary he tried so hard to belittle. Of necessity Frank emphasizes that Bush actively avoided service in Viet Nam (which isn’t true), and avoids altogether the brouhaha of “Rathergate.” Selective? Na-a-a!

“Oddly enough, Zell Miller had once been known as a fairly formidable class warrior on the left . . . blasting Bush’s father . . . as a clueless ‘aristocrat’ . . . but in the election of 2004 all the class anger was on the other side. . . . It was the Democrat whose aristocratic lifestyle was always coming into question.” Miller’s arguments weren’t about aristocracy. They were about arrogance and misunderstanding of facts and reality. Miller explained, but Frank just can’t . . . or won/t believe it.

Yep . . . like so many on the left, what he doesn’t know about people is a lot!


Posted by respeto at 3:31 PM

July 4, 2005

On Arabs and Islam . . . again.

Last night I had the occasion to see again, after more than 20 years (thanks to NetFlix), the movie Khartoum. For those who can’t remember, or didn’t see this 1966 movie I highly recommend it. It chronicled the historic sacking of Khartoum in 1885 by the army of the Muslim “Mahdi” (chosen one)—a 19th century version of Osama Bin Laden who was convinced that he had been selected by Mohammed to “purify” Islam by killing everyone who didn’t agree with him. Men, women and children . . . Sudanese, Egyptian, English . . . Muslim, Jewish, Christian . . . it didn’t matter.

Initially an army of 100,000 Muslims led by this fanatic laid siege to Khartoum for 10 months. Terrified by the threat, half of the city’s population “crossed over” to the Mahdi’s side and left the city. Days later Khartoum was destroyed, along with the 30,000 remaining inhabitants. This was accomplished cruelly and unmercifully with pikes, swords, daggers, primitive rifles, even picks and shovels. The city was sacked and burned--left in ruins, and the dead left for preying birds and animals.

The British, wishing to avoid involvement, delayed in sending their army. They reconsidered, but the army arrived several days too late to save the city and its people! It was a disastrous decision which the British Empire regretted immediately, and it still stands on the record of one of their “worst hours.”

There is a message here. One would have thought that the Brits wouldn’t forget, but most have. (The French probably cheered.) We must not forget! We are the only power sufficiently large and sophisticated to stand up to the threat of terrorism and we must not fail. If we do, Western Civilization will fail as well, and the world will enter another dark millennium. We can “bring along” allies, if they will join us, but we must do it alone if we can't. There is no acceptable alternative.

Those who feel we should “legally prosecute” or “negotiate” our way out of this threat are missing a serious point. These fanatics are out to destroy the world as we know it, and expressly Western Civilization, and will quit only when they are killed or at least neutralized. Afghanistan was a first step. Iraq is a second. Others will follow, but fail we must not. As in WWII, the only rational exit strategy is victory.

We must defeat this nebulous enemy by whatever means necessary, wherever necessary, whenever necessary, and over whatever time period is necessary.

Posted by respeto at 1:23 PM

July 2, 2005

How Should We Then Live?

Francis A. Schaeffer – ISBN 158345364

This weighty tome assesses Christian impact on Western civilization and the subsequent decline of Western thought and culture. He treats his subject over amply in my judgment.

Early, he delves heavily—and seemingly inappropriately—into Christian art, and later music, making it seem his thrust is to display his knowledge. Later he ties it up, but his inclusion of near infinite details beclouds the point(s) he is making. The book could have been clarified and edited to half its length without compromising his goal: the elucidation of the importance of Christianity to the Western world, and how this has been jeopardized and diluted over the millennia. Nonetheless the book deserves to be read.

He emphasizes that Christian morals and beliefs are anathema to totalitarians. He explores Renaissance Humanism and what it did to compromise Western thought, “de-Deifying” religion and over-individualizing the concepts which originated in the “word of God;” and how during the Enlightenment intellectuals rationalized things in a way that left man starting from himself alone, which offers no final way of “saying [that] certain things are right and other things are wrong.” In this he is extremely effective.

DaVinci noted its coming centuries ago. Starting from man alone, he said, mathematics leads us to particulars, which lead only to mechanics. Humanism affords no way to the universal in areas of meaning and values. Rousseau, in contrast, advocated freedom from God--and all other restraints --and made man the center of the universe.

The Reformation removed the “humanistic distortions which had entered the church.” Erasmus, etal, were principally trying to reestablish authentic Catholicism, that is, a return to biblical teaching, restoration of freedom without chaos, eradication of corruption within the Church, and reestablishment of the concept that all individuals were answerable to God. Not incidentally, it authored the Protestantism of Luther and Calvin.

Early scientists were unsurprised to discover truisms about nature and the universe using reason. While not necessarily Christian, these scientists accepted the concept of God, which humanism undercuts. Darwin complicated the matter by describing the origins of life without even a hypothesis regarding how things actually work, or commenting upon how pure chance could result in ongoing and increasing complexity. (See my initial blog on Darwin vs. Intelligent Design.)

He quotes one George Wald who, in a serious lecture, noted that humanism insists that: “Four hundred years ago there was a collection of molecules named Shakespeare which produced Hamlet.” In making himself autonomous, then, man becomes nothing more than a collection of molecules. The final value, then, is continuity in the human race. The man actually believed this! The author asks: “If this is the only final value, one is left wondering why this then has importance.”

As for the search for a non-rational explanation of life--the very reason Eastern religions so captivate moderns—he notes that it was initiated by Goethe and Wagner, expounded by Huxley, and popularized by Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead . . . sex, drugs and rock and roll. I was perplexed that he omitted Scientism. As in (pantheistic) Hinduism, everything which exists is part of “God.” No morality or immorality, no cruel and non-cruel, no beginning, no end and no purpose. Don’t enquire into the big questions such as why things exist at all.

Having eliminated God, people have adopted the values of personal peace and affluence. There is no meaning for man, and no meaning for education, except that money enhances peace and prosperity. It comes as no surprise that much of the younger generation is apathetic, undereducated and narcissistic.

We are witnessing the morning (or ought it be mourning?) of a society in which crucial decisions are made by government, informed by the scientific community it funds. These decisions are increasingly sophisticated, requiring an elite technocracy to run the apparatus. These possess no transcendent ethic and are absent a moral belief system. “Men can be remade, their behavior conditioned, or their consciousness altered. [Past] constraints will vanish” . . . and Galbraith’s vision (or 1984) will become reality.

Frighteningly, it is predictable that the silent majority will remain silent despite their loss of liberty for so long as their life style is not challenged, and personal peace and prosperity are delivered. Politics is no longer a matter of ideals such as liberty and truth, simply serenity and affluence.

We are taught that man is little more than a machine, and PETA, amongst others believe he is immaterially different from the other animals.

We have come a long way since Rome. Now we are on the return trip to the specter described by Gibbon. Bread and circuses!

Crick (the man who identified DNA) felt that modern medicine was a menace since it left the weak alive to breed the next generation. A former governor of Colorado deemed it the responsibility of the old and the sick to die. We have recently executed a brain dead woman on no life support. We are on the edge of the abyss of genetic engineering and few—including none who are in charge--ask if there aren’t at least a few moral considerations.

So . . . who will control the controllers? What will happen in a society without absolutes? What happens when we are so in awe what can be done, that we fail to question whether it should to be done?

Not altogether unlike democracy, Christianity may or not be the only way to achieve goals, satisfy deep needs, and secure peace and dignity with or without a hereafter, but neither the West, nor any other society has found a better way to date. The West is, afterall, of Christian origin! We'd best get serious about considering that.


Posted by respeto at 4:50 PM