Friday, April 25, 2008

Bush's Anti-Terrorist Language Reform

Having failed in defeating Osama bin Laden with military weapons, the Bush Administration has decided to give a linguistic reformation a go. Perhaps because of a misguided belief in Orwell's thesis that political language can determine political thought, the Bush Administration has decided that we should no longer call Al Qaida a "movement." One wants to ask whether it was okay to call them that right after 9/11 but not now? Was it ever okay to call them that?

Bush doesn't want us to see Al Qaida as "an organized effort by supporters of a common goal, a leader of the labor movement," as Answers.com puts it.The reason, of course, is that there is no evidence that Al Qaida is organized in the way that the labor movement is. The problem is that the Bush Administration has been using the threat of concerted actions by members of Al Qaida to destroy us for the last seven years to scare us into letting him do whatever it is he wants to do to kill them off -- undermine our civil rights, engage in torture, etc. So, unable to defeat the Bogey Man, Bush now tells us that there is no Bogey Man. Good luck with that.

According to the AP story I am referencing
Federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center, are telling their people not to describe Islamic extremists as "jihadists" or "mujahedeen," according to documents obtained by the Associated Press. Lingo like "Islamo-fascism" is out, too.
The reason is that
Such words might boost support for radicals among Arab and Muslim audiences by giving them a veneer of religious credibility or by causing offense to moderates.
Since bullets, bombs, and other weapons of war have failed to kill bin Laden or those who practice terrorism, it seems that we will use language. The AP story continues with this amazing statement:
Language is critical in the war on terror, says another document, an "official use only" memorandum circulating through Washington.
Maybe these people didn't get the memo most children get that sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. I hate to be the one to break it to our government officials, but our linguistic reforms will have no impact whatsoever on the actions of those who hate us for this, that, or the other thing.

One of the reasons that we are so widely hated in the Muslim world is that we are occupying several Muslim nations, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait. Another is that we are killing ordinary people in Afghanistan (and maybe Pakistan as well) and Iraq who have never shot a bullet in our direction, committing the very crime that we accuse terrorists of, namely the killing of innocent civilians. Perhaps we do not do so deliberately but the law in the United States reserves cells for those who kill without the intent to kill. At the very least, this counts as Involuntary Manslaughter.

I'm afraid that the Bush Administration thinks that a linguistic reform will achieve what he has not been able to achieve with his sticks and stones. It may help to ease the fears of domestic Muslims but to think that seriously is an insult to these Americans. They are not as stupid as our Bush Administration linguists. What the Bush Administration might think of trying is such things as (a) an even-handed approach to Israel and Palestine, economically and militarily, (b) a withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and Kuwait, and (c) a determined effort to get Muslim states to join with NATO in the effort to root out the terrorists along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. If we cannot get them to join us, then that will be pretty good evidence that we should consider withdrawing from that country as well. The fact is that the correct way to deal with terrorism is to see it as a policing problem. Where training camps pop up, I would suggest asking the host nation to destroy them with or without our help using carrots (money) and sticks (uninvited strikes by American special forces units), when carrots don't work. It would be a simple thing to tell countries that if they host such camps there will be consequences.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Are We Better Off Overall?

This morning, I decided I needed a jolt of Morning Joe to become fully awake. One of the commercials run during this MSNBC show offered up by the Democratic National Committee directly attacks McCain's credibility. I have created a table that reasonably accurately presents what went on. All of the responses were from a single sitting -- the background is the same behind McCain. It is possible that the opening question (which I have abbreviated a tiny bit) came from that same session.

Democratic National Committee TV Commercial

Off Screen Background Question

McCain Answers

Graphic Countering Facts

Senator McCain, Are Americans better off than they were 8 years ago?

Americans, overall, are better off; pretty good prosperous time.

Household Income
Down $1000

Low Unemployment

Unemployment Up

Low Inflation

Highest Inflation In 17 years

A lot of good things have happened

Gas Prices Up 200%

A lot of jobs have been created

1.8 Million Jobs Lost

I think we are better off overall

Do You Feel Better Off

Is John McCain the Right Choice For America's Future?

The question, "Are you better off now than you were N years ago?" seems to be an effective campaign query and it can work both for an incumbent or his or her opponent. In this case, we have neither. However, McCain, perhaps making a colossal campaign blunder, takes on the mantle of defending eight years of Bush failures rather than saying simply that he is not Bush and that he has a different way of looking at the world and will have policies that differ from those of Bush to varying degrees, some small and some large. He is, after all, a self-described "maverick." Perhaps he should dress himself up in Bret Maverick's outfit, which you can see in this You Tube clip. Better yet, maybe the Democrats should.

The answer McCain gives to the "Better Off" question is as lame as I can think of -- we are better off overall. What in living hell does that mean? Nothing in particular, so McCain elaborates some particulars which you can see in the second column. The third column refutes the claims of the second column. The response that household income is down $1000 per se does not do so, but if one adds increased unemployment, increased inflation, including in particular an increase in gas prices that makes doing everything from going to a job, to the grocery store, to one's church, and to movies and other entertainments, we have a resounding refutation. My wife and I are not more prosperous. We have suffered a decline in stock values and a decrease in the spending power of our retirement income and income from stocks. So, it is easy for me to calculate the effect of the cost of the War in Iraq and various other stupid Bush policies on our degree of prosperousness.

I am delighted that McCain has decided to run on the Bush record. He will, of course, run for the hills once the one-on-one campaign heats up. Unfortunately, I am convinced that in the very unlikely event that Hillary wins, African Americans will either not vote, vote for the Megalomaniac Nader, or vote for McCain. Meanwhile, if Obama wins, I fear White racism will kill off his chances. The White vote for Hillary played a major role in her win in Pennsylvania. Much of that White vote will go to the old White addle-pated guy, McCain.

Did I mention that after his answer to all but two of his assertions, he closed his eyes. In one of these two cases, his reply was cut off too quickly to see it. The Democrats should run it about 20 milliseconds longer. And, though it was hard to tell given the McCain sound bytes, it seemed that he closed his eyes before making his next point. It is as if he had bought into the first monkey's injunction, "See no evil," the evil being his intentional falsehoods. Allegedly one of the signs someone is lying is closing one's eyes.

One of my favorite Eagles songs is Lyin' Eyes. Having suckered a rich old man into marrying her, the bored wife decides she needs a bit of a change.

So she tells him she must go out for the evening
To comfort an old friend who's feelin' down
But he knows where she's goin' as she's leavin'
She is headed for the cheatin' side of town

You can't hide your lyin' eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you'd realize
There ain't no way to hide your lyin eyes

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Difficulty in being French

The French have a very long history of trying to preserve the French language and culture in the face of the insidious influence of Anglos -- both the Brits and the Americans. Years ago, an effort was made by the French to restrict the percentage of American movies shown on French television stations. Thanks to them, the EU has gone along with this same protectionist policy. A study of EU, especially French, protectionism notes
The 1989 EU "Television Without Frontiers" directive and quotas implemented by the French Government limit the number of American films shown in French theaters and on French Television. The EU Broadcast Directive was passed inOctober 1989 in an effort to protect and promote the Europeancultural identity. The directiverequires that EU member-states reserve a majority (51 percent) of entertainment broadcast transmission time for programs of European origin. France lobbied hardest to pass the EU directive and has since implemented the most stringent quotas within its national system.
The study notes that when France produced movies as good or better than American movies they welcomed them. One may reasonably infer that the French people want to see more than the crazy French Arts Facists are comfortable with.

Interestingly, the Brits and Aussies have robust movie industries and both make very high quality movies. You should check Aussie movies out. They do not see protectionism as a problem. What they do is train great actors and ship them off to the US. Indeed, if anyone needs protection it is American actors for Aussie and British actors litter the landscapes of our movie screens and I couldn't be happier about it. Who could object to seeking Kidman and Watts in its nation's films. I believe that if Aussies, for instance, didn't appear in high quality Aussie movies, their actors wouldn't be invited over.

At this time, the French are in a terrible quandary. It seems that there is an Eurovision song contest and the French entry has -- Alors! -- some English lyrics. It seems that the French entry comes from France's culture minister, Sebastien Tellier, and "his entry, entitled Divine, combines both English and French lyrics with electro music.
France's culture minister has defended his song, saying the country should fully support his bid for victory."

Only the weak need employ protectionist policies. If French movies can't compete with American movies now, the solution is to produce better movies, not restrict the import of movies from elsewhere. I would suggest that the French follow the lead of Australia in developing the performing arts.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Gains in Iraq

General Petraeus is back in the USA shilling for his version of the Bush "stay the course" policy in Iraq. His argument before the Senate Armed Forces Committee was that there have been gains as a result of the surge but that they are "fragile" and "reversible" and so we cannot, as promised, be reducing the number of troops in Iraq. This is a thoroughly Orwellian statement for it can be argued that gains that are fragile and reversible aren't gains at all. This reminds me of gambling. If one goes to Las Vegas, plays poker and wins $1,000, you and I know that that this gain is fragile and reversible should one play poker longer. So, if your intention is to play poker longer, have you actually won $1,000?

Recently the leader of Iraq, without consulting the American military until his military plan went down the tubes and his troops needed rescuing. Why did he do that? Probably because he didn't want to explain to the American officers why he wanted to engage in this battle. It was probably politically or personally motivated. Of course, he might have wanted to display to us and his people that his government was on top of things in Iraq.

In the most amazing testimony I have heard or read about by an American officer to the Senate can be found at the Washington Post's web site
Asked repeatedly yesterday what "conditions" he is looking for to begin substantial U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq after this summer's scheduled drawdown, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said he will know them when he sees them.
Now, though it makes no sense in fact, we let people get away with saying things like "I can't define pornography but I know it when I see it." The reason we shouldn't take even that sort of claim seriously is that reasonable people differ in what they say is pornographic. We damn sure shouldn't take Gen. Petraeus seriously. In academia we call this "hand waving." I think it should be likened more to the General showing his middle finger to the Democratically led committee.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

John McCain's Temper

I heard today on my local liberal/progressive radio station that John McCain in a display of temper referred to his wife as a "trollop," a linguistic choice which indicates his very advanced age, and as a "cunt," a linguistic choice that indicates that this is not a very nice man, certainly not the sort of man a woman ought to be with. Both illustrate the fact that he has a temper. Fact checking brought up The Atlantic.com's reference to these linguistic droppings.

The author of the Atlantic blog offering asksW
hat do you think the age cutoff is below which it becomes utterly implausible that someone would use the term "trollop" in a non-ironic context?
My answer to that question is that the person would have to be older than my 69 years. My guestimate is that maybe 85-90 years old would be a reasonable cutoff age for someone to have "trollop" in his productive vocabulary. To actually have it in one's active linguistic vacabulary, one would need to be totally out of touch with the world he lives in.

The Washington Post has a 1999 article bringing McCain's volcanic temper to the attention of the nation, claiming

In a front page article and separate editorial Sunday, The Arizona Republic said it wanted the nation to know about the "volcanic" temper McCain has unleashed on several top state officials.

Those who have been on the receiving end of a McCain uproar include Republican Gov. Jane Hull, former Republican Gov. Rose Mofford and former Democratic Mayor Paul Johnson of Phoenix.

The article went on to say
McCain blamed the Bush campaign for helping plant recent temper stories and said the "hothead" portrayal was inaccurate.

"Do I insult anybody or fly off the handle or anything like that? No, I don't," insisted McCain.
Clearly we are dealing with a long standing problem.

There was a time when Presidential temperament was a major issue in selecting Presidents. Obama clearly has an even temper. Hillary gets high marks though Bill no longer does (when defending his wife). McCain does not. He is also very, very old, even older than I am if that's possible. I will probably have more to say about this but I will leave you with this thought: no one ever says anything that is not on his mind. Watch your guard, Mrs. McCain who though very made up hardly looks like a trollop. She's actually very nice looking to my ancient eyes.

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