The New Terrapin Gazette
What is the difference between a normal, a sick and a dead organism? From the standpoint of physics and chemistry the answer is bound to be that the difference is not definable on the basis of so-called mechanistic theory. … Nevertheless, there is a fundamental difference between a live and a dead organism….
The Attack Of The Killer Butterflies
Obamite propagandists are lashing out at military veterans who criticize The One for security leaks and for claiming undue credit for killing bin Laden. There is also bitter criticism of the Boy Scouts for refusing to accept homosexuals as members. Yes, the campaign is heating up.
The Democrats are smart to characterize the criticism of Obama’s security leaks as “Swift Boating”. Here’s why: it’s easy to assume — as Team Obama wants you to — that “Swift Boating” is very naughty. But if you wanted to be fair, you would have to determine whether that is the case, and that would require you to sift through all the facts regarding candidate Kerry’s military career and subsequent employment in politics. It’s a long, complicated and boring tale, brimming over with charges and counter-charges. Locating and then evaluating all the facts and claims in order to determine the ethical status of “Swift Boating” would be difficult and onerous.
The predecessor of the NTG conducted limited research into the evidence, and came to the conclusion that “Swift Boating” was a service provided for the good of the nation, because it exposed Kerry as culpable and deserving of rejection by the voters. Take that for whatever it’s worth, but again, do realize that revisiting the issues will be impractical. Further, there is the possibility that this newsletter erred in its evaluation of the evidence, or simply missed some important facts.
(You can, and probably should, skip this parenthetical list of the things your investigation into the ethical nature of “Swift Boating” would require. Here it is anyway, in support of the claim that figuring out whether being accused of “Swift Boating” is bad or good will involve tons of hard work that most people simply can’t manage. First you would have to ask whether the date of Kerry’s honorable discharge from the military suggests an earlier, less than honorable discharge, with the later one coming as a result of the Carter amnesty. You would then want to know how many of Kerry’s shipmates refused to stand with those who were bitterly critical of him. You would need to decide whether the accusations against Kerry, if true, suggest Kerry would have been an unsuitable candidate for the presidency. You would have to find all instances of Kerry’s claim that his military records were not sealed and hidden, and then you would have to try to locate either a transcript or video of Kerry’s TV appearance on NBC when he told Tom Brokaw that part of his record remained sealed and unavailable — long after he had repeatedly insisted it was all public. You would want to see whether you could locate a copy of his book, published after he left the military. You would have to try to find a transcript of his testimony before a Congressional committee in which he allegedly said he and all Vietnam war vets were war criminals. You would have to determine whether he actually did throw his medals away (over a fence), and what that means to you. You would have to revisit his claims of being illegally in Cambodia as a consequence of US Navy orders, and you would want to understand his contradictory statements as being either the work of a liar or of someone with a faulty memory. All that would be just the beginning, for in order to probe further into the ethics of “Swift Boating”, you would need the services of a lawyer and researchers, as well as help in filing Freedom of Information Act requests. Team Obama knows no one is going to do all this at this late date; that makes “Swift Boating” a virtually risk-free accusation.)
Labeling the opposition with a slogan and smugly insisting that it is an accurate condemnation is easy and often effective. Everybody does it; this newsletter refers frequently to the Obama administration as “Peronist”, but just how much do you know about Juan Peron, and can you honestly say he was a bad man?
At the very least, White House accusations of “Swift Boating” scored points with the lap dog media. (Insert McKayla Maroney smirk here.)
That won’t get many undecided voters on Obama’s side, though. It’s designed to bolster the righteous indignation of the party faithful as well as provoke the opposition into saying something stupid.
As for the Boy Scouts — well, right or wrong, they do have a private organization that has certain religious qualifications. Perhaps they are being indoctrinated to be bigots, or perhaps they are entitled to their moral standards and are spiritually informed by decent values. It may be wise to exclude homosexuals from this organization, given its activities and young membership. Then too, this metaphor of dealing with the Boy Scouts as one deals with a rabid dog is — well, overheated, to say the least.
It’s up to you to decide just what discriminatory measures can be tolerated by the body politic (does any group have the right to exclude homosexuals or heterosexuals on moral grounds?). As you decide what is permissible and what is not (polygamy? Polyandry? Polygyny? No men allowed? Nobody under eighteen years of age? No smoking?), do try to be fair. Then: good luck changing the minds of people who disagree with you!
This newsletter is not pleased to see “Swift Boating” employed as a pejorative; those Navy vets who spoke out against Kerry seemed sincere and honest. The criticism of the Boy Scouts also seems hostile, as if reform were not its genuine goal. Well, you decide. And while you do, ponder this: as long as the government permits you to decide, you are free. Once you lose that freedom, getting it back will certainly require violence.
English, Correct And Otherwise
Past issues of this newsletter have fulminated against incorrect English and insisted on precision. “Media” and “data” are plurals, and that’s not debatable, no matter how the words are misrepresented and employed; neither “text” nor “critique” is a verb, though millions use them as if they were. No compromises are tolerated here: words used popularly but incorrectly are not welcome, and a serious effort is made to produce correct copy. In this office, if nowhere else in Western Civilization, more than one octopus makes for octopodes, and the penalty for using “problematic” to mean “laden with or causing problems” deprives the miscreant of at least one daily ration of Guinness. As to “plethora” and “pararmater”, well, the mind recoils at the horror of their fate in modern prose.
Yes, mistakes are made, and of course perfect literacy is an unattainable goal; the occasional mea culpa is inevitable. As testimony to the eternal striving, five books (and no others) stand on the editor’s desk: a good dictionary that is more reference than chronicle of usage, Roget’s, and all three editions of Fowler’s.
These observations are prompted by another of those nettlesome essays on the non-issue of “prescriptive and descriptive” dictionaries. It is deeply satisfying to find a passionate advocate of the “if people say it, that makes it right” view delivering himself of this grotesquerie: “How do ludicrous fetishes like the prohibition of split verbs become entrenched? For a false consensus to take root against people’s better judgment it needs the additional push of enforcement.” (Quoted in this article.)
Well, Pilgrims, this is too, too delicious. One might even linger over the disaster, as do slack-jawed scopophiles at train wrecks. The feckless author of those sentences is an easy target, and might be pitied — if his offense were trivial (he writes to advocate an evil cause), or he were not a professional wordsmith.
Begin with the very idea of a “false consensus” that is both “entrenched” and “takes root”. That’s a strained attempt at colorful writing, but is it cogent? Can a consensus entrench, then put down roots, and grow? Metaphorically, isn’t the emergence of a consensus more the evolution of a general agreement on an increasingly popular (and therefore more broad) perception of some aspect of reality than it is a profound penetration of fertile soil by a vegetable organism?
Indeed those “roots” confound the imagery. Do you have any experience with roots that can be encouraged to grow if some form of “enforcement” is exercised? The concept envoked is inarticulate and uninformative, and mainly because it is a fundamentally bad and then mixed metaphor. In the words of an English professor of long ago, “Mixed metaphors are — let me think of an example — well, ‘The hand that rocked the cradle kicked the bucket.'” Now that’s extreme, but all the funnier for its absurdity. Many metaphors are absurd, and their too-frequent and slipshod application tends to mask their absurdity.
Ah, yes, absurdity. Consider now the concept of a false consensus. How is that possible? Can any consensus be false? The report of a consensus may be false (“The committee was said to have concluded its work, but in fact no vote has yet been taken”), but a consensus is like a flood or a mountain: either it exists or it does not. False phenomena do not exist, though they may be claimed to; they are like “incorrect sums”, in that they fail the test of definition. The concept is simple but perhaps unfamiliar because of sloppy current usage. Note that a column of numbers has a sum, and that figure has no equal but itself. If the addition is in error, the sum is not reached — some other figure is. The expression “incorrect sum” is a contradiction in terms, and therefore nonsense. The sum will always be correct, by definition.
The principle is the same when one considers the word “consensus”: either it is or it is not properly used. In a particular context, it either fails or meets the definition of the word. If the context is “false consensus”, it fails. A false consensus is no more possible than is a false sum (other examples: “married bachelors” and “living corpses”). Failure to grasp this truth can only lead to further conceptual and lexical disarray.Indeed a consensus did exist regarding split infinitives, and the author of the “false consensus” term admits that. The consensus he cites may have been unwise, or even irrational, but it was not a false one; it met all the criteria set by the correct definition of the word. Accordingly, one can see that the author in question has produced a nonsense sentence.
This display of illogic is a warning to the prudent.
Finally, one must somehow penetrate the irrationality of the claim that a consensus can be fostered by something the general public knows to be false but still considers true. Now that requires a Hillary-like suspension of disbelief! Can you believe something you don’t actually believe? One can have doubts, one can be undecided — in which case, is a consensus possible, if most people find themselves in that position?
There are several principles that, if followed, make for better, more effective prose. One is clarity of vision. Calling up blurred visions is a blunder that can be avoided only by the most skillful authors; in fact, most writers may be best off to leave that to poets, some of whom may do it to the reader’s benefit. So metaphors must be — to put it metaphorically but clearly — under control.
Then there is the matter of definition. It’s a difficult subject, but clarity of thought can make it easier. One must, absolutely must, begin with distinct rules (later they can be bent, but that is a task for an artist; many writers overestimate their abilities, which is why there are references, style guides, and good dictionaries). Precision and simplicity help to define the writer’s guidelines, preventing him from delivering self-contradictory babble.
There are rules to follow, and if you throw them away, you cannot expect to construct cogent arguments. You are also likely to approve of the New York schoolteacher (previously mentioned in this newsletter) who proudly proclaimed, “I teaches English.” (No, you does not teaches nuthin’; you is a disgrace, and you oughts to be fired. You gots that?)
There are correct and incorrect utterances. Writing in English is partly a matter of using reason, partly a matter of consistency, and partly a matter of obeying the rules of the road. Rules may be arbitrary, but they keep the traffic moving. Structure and process set a tone, as well, and that tone or ethos can be a tool for achievement — or just a means of communication. Birds and antelopes and bacteria communicate. Erudition is qualitatively distinct, and it cannot be indiscriminately compliant. It necessarily imposes a number of sophisticated constraints and virtues on those who attain it. Rules, definitions, a syntax and logic based on the singular talent of humanity — those are the foundations and essential components of literacy.
It’s ignorant (or possibly hypocritical) of an author to attempt an impeachment of the rules when he is demonstrably disorganized. If you endorse the authority of dictionaries that are not references but merely tell you what the ill-educated are saying this year, do not presume to make your case to those who prefer to think straight. You literally have nothing to say.
Isn’t An Election Coming Up? Oh, Yeah
Just in case you care who wins the US presidency in November, you might want to take a look at an entirely predictable commentary that explains how the “wingnuts” — who are the only opposition to Team Obama — are managing to find ways to weaken their political impact. Bad news? Well, maybe not, for an Obama victory would, as this newsletter has suggested, give the power-hungry collectivists more rope with which to hang themselves. That could and probably would inspire a genuine reform movement and lead to genuine change in 2016. Evidently that reform movement is just not ready, and it seems clear to this newsletter at least that the electorate is not ready for reform. If the time is not ripe, one must wait.
Yes, that’s painful truth, if it’s a truth. Why is it necessary to go through all the agonies of bad government, economic distress, and anxiety over botched foreign policy in order to enjoy the benefits of rational leadership?
Part of the answer probably lies in the fact that there is a distinct lack of unity on one end of the political spectrum. A cursory examination of the collectivist aggregation indicates a relatively high level of solidarity. Vandals and barbarians in the various “Occupy” groups know that a Harvard professor who is running for the most exclusive political club in the world, the US Senate, proudly proclaims herself a (if not the) inspiration of the anticapitalist, anti-Liberty gangs. While local police departments and municipal administrations struggle with the neo-Marxist thugs and their camp followers, the highest levels of the collectivist establishment smile benignly and endorse the ideological basis for the civil unrest. This is Class War as the ruling elite likes it.
The admirable lack of infighting among the collectivists allows Obama — who is anything but a true civil libertarian — to continue policies damned by his supporters. “Minor” issues involving individual rights, privacy, and the extension of police power over a peaceful electorate used to be at the very least talking points for academics, civil rights groups, and collectivist think tanks. No longer. Under Obama, all that is dispensed with or disregarded. Even the conduct of foreign policy, which any rational observer must admit has been egregious under Obama/Hillary, is above and beyond criticism. That, Pilgrims, is solidarity.
How in the world did this uniformity arise? One answer — which is probably a bit too simple — is that the various factions within the Democrats’ loose ranks discovered in Obama a candidate who could sweep aside all the parochial interests of the Democrats and simply win.
Take a closer look. Obama had great credentials: first, he was a community organizer. Who better understands the theory of power and the means of focusing it for specific results? Organizers are not reformers, and they care little for the specifics of policy; they deal with power, control, the concentration of effort in the attack on weak points, and the enlistment of voters in grand alliances that gloss over issues with slogans. They are the ultimate advertisers and coordinators, bargaining cynically to bring down the existing order by rallying dissidents.
Second, Obama was ideally qualified because of his genetic endowment. While some black leaders early on realized, and said, that he did not represent the great majority of black US citizens, this observation was quickly dropped. Both ends of the political spectrum realized that Obama’s race was much more advantage than handicap: if he met with vocal opposition from racists, the resulting rage from across the political spectrum would be a virtual guarantee of victory. In a sense, that’s testimony to the ethical progress made by the nation. That the Democrats were able to take advantage of it is not to their discredit.
Third, Obama was a literal unknown, meaning he had no clumsy baggage. So little was known about him that he (and his confederates) felt it useful to provide the world with two autobiographies, both written before he had been on the earth for a half century. As a politician, Obama was a cipher, having accomplished almost exactly nothing except get elected, and that was an advantage: there was nothing to criticize. This was a new face, a man who could become the repository of all the hopes, dreams, goals, political ideology and values that the electorate wished to believe he espoused. The voter could make of him whatever was desired.
Fourth, Obama the community organizer was flexible. Attending a church headed by an entertaining nutcase for some twenty years, Obama was able to drop the goofy pastor as soon as the public noticed. Closely associated with some unrepentant homicidal felons from the days of the Weather Underground and other dangerous groups, Obama was able to pretend he hardly knew the extremists existed and certainly never had philosophical discussions with them. Billy The Bomber Ayers appears to have ghost-written one of Obama’s books, but Obama would prefer you to believe that he would hardly be able to pick Ayers out of a lineup.
Fifth, Obama is a very good orator — as long as he is not interrupted with pesky questions from a skeptical audience. His press conferences show where his strengths and weaknesses lie, and it is clear that the Democrats envisioned him as a Hitler-like figure rather than a debater who could deal with counter-arguments. Hitler as a model for Obama? Yes, and very much so. Consider that Obama rose to fame among the Democrats because of his oratorical skills, and was invited to give the stem-winding speech at the party’s convention that first put him in the “presidential, maybe” category. On being elected, Obama was cinematically placed in a fake Greco-Roman style temple and spoke to the nation as from On High. Hitler is an excellent example of this grandiose school of propaganda and oratory — the crazed Austrian practiced every gesture, every pause, every shouted demand, having his private photographer archive the postures and poses for careful analysis. Hitler was a showman, an actor on a stage, and the grander the stage, the better. As is today the case with Obama, Hitler’s talents in the 1930s were magnified by his surroundings, and he was transformed by the adulation of the crowds — no members of which were permitted to ask questions or attempt refutations of the manifest nonsense. Pressed by less-controlled circumstances, Obama has a tendency to react badly, once giving Hillary the finger in a debate, and again making an inference comparing Sarah Palin to a sow (yes, the two incidents did occur). Both Hitler and Obama were at their best, their fire-breathing, inspirational peaks, when an adoring, responsive audience was under control and the opposition was unable to interrupt and make its points. Then too, Hitler and Obama both enjoyed campaigning, rousing their supporters, basking in the cheers of the masses, and neither man took pleasure in the tasks of leadership. It has been said that Obama does not enjoy being president nearly as much as he enjoyed running for the office, and at many points in his career, Hitler must have longed for the days when he could once again appear before tens of thousands of photogenic Nazis. In the narrow category of oratory, showmanship, panache before a cheering throng and the aplomb to say utterly ridiculous things as if they were wise and inspirational maxims, Hitler and Obama are indeed comparable.
Sixth, Obama is by nature rather secretive, and that makes it possible for all manner of activists, nutcases, academics, entertainers and the public in general to make of him what they wish. No one is completely clear on precisely what Obama thinks, except that his view of politics is silly (he actually says the US constitution is inadequate because it provides no material benefits to the people, but only safeguards their Liberty) and his understanding of economics is childish (he claims to believe the absurdity that you have to take money from the rich and spread it around, because they certainly won’t do that as a natural consequence of having lots of money). Even the incredibly ignorant and irrational concepts that Obama is willing to articulate do not disillusion collectivists of all stripes, because those self-deluded idealists feel free to think that behind Obama’s literally stupid utterances is solid, intellectual, informed and practical policy for reform. The “Yes we can” and “Hope and Change” slogans are empty vessels into which all manner of ideology may be poured. Now of course Obama’s lifelong close-mouthed attitude had to be countered, as some of his associates realized, and that accounts for both of those risibly impeachable autobiographies. Still, Obama is the man the electorate simply does not know, and that is to his and the Democratic party’s distinct advantage.
Seventh, Obama can be manipulated. As a community organizer, he recognizes power when he sees it, and he will back down if he must. He understands that coalitions must compromise in order to maintain solidarity, and he places great importance on holding people together by tolerating their foibles and giving their enemies a piece of the action to calm everyone down. A decent president would have fired Eric Holder long ago, but Obama has tacitly admitted that those records of Justice Department communications do in fact compromise the White House (a claim that may not be true at all), and must be kept out of Representative Issa’s hands. As for the people behind Fast and Furious, well, you pay them off, and they keep their damned mouths shut, and everybody is happy. Power is given to those who can bestow gifts and acknowledge the importance of greater power. Obama can manipulate, haggle and coordinate a gang because he is an organizer, not a leader. Unfortunately that gang has neither ethical nor practical qualifications to exert control over the body politic, but the Democrats don’t care: they have a winner.
It will take time for the electorate to discover the truth in the above seven contentions. About four more years.
And on the political “right” — there is dissension, a lack of unity, and the distinct possibility that squabbles will weaken the political impact required to remove Team Obama from power. The nation is entering a Time Of Troubles that must be endured before better people can be elected, better legislation can be enacted, and better policies can be employed. Click on the above links, Pilgrims, and understand.
The news media, according to Jake Tapper. This is worth a few minutes of your time.
GB, the NTG’s consultant on Turkey, suggests an interesting item on the problems of the Iranian populace and oil industry — and provides an example of what the computer jocks in Iran have had to put up with. It almost inspires pity….
If you were allocating money to the USA’s military, which branch of service would you consider the most deserving of funding? Here’s an interesting answer you can compare with your determination of who should get priority.
A weblogger says, “Expect this sort of thing here (in the USA), soon, under ObamaCare.” Here’s what he’s talking about, and it’s not good.
If you are interested in passwords and internet security, you will find more information than you wanted or needed at this website. It can help you come up with safer passwords, which you will probably want to do as soon as you learn how easily passwords can be cracked.
Those whiny “wingnuts” are still complaining about the biased news media…well, put it this way: those obsessed “wingnuts” are still pointing out that the media are not really fair and open about their preferences. Unh, that is to say, some of the crackpots on the political right claim to have proof that the folks who deliver the news to most of the nation are…oh, never mind.
“Time is running out not only on the countdown to the day when Iran will be able to quickly assemble a bomb but until the point where it will no longer be possible to use force to prevent them from doing so. Four years of Obama policies toward Iran have shown the administration to be willing to do nothing but talk about the need to avert this danger.” That from here. You don’t have to destroy the underground weapons shops — if you can locate the entrances/exits and air vents, and seal them up. Maybe some in the Israeli military have thought of that….
Thomas Sowell in 2008: in this video, he makes only one mistake — he predicts things will happen faster than they actually did. Iran does not have the atomic bomb, and the public has not learned its lesson.
How! You see poll? Ugh! Me no like-um. Whack with tomahawk, you bet-chum. White-eyes no good, heap plenty speak with forked tongue. Ugh! — Yes, this newsletter knows genuine Native Americans don’t talk like brain-damaged chimpanzees, but then Warren is no genuine Native American. Never mind, and don’t ask her about that, because her claims are not just idiotic, they are irrelevant. She’s a radical neo-Marxist who is as economically ignorant as a cigar store, pardon the expression, Indian. But will she lose, as the poll seems to suggest? Maybe, but you should not bet any wampum on it, Pilgrims, because she’s running in Massachusetts, and that means…well, you know. Those folks have a history.
Who is this guy? … Oh. Wow. And…well, wow. See for yourself. (Note: the host is a bit of a nitwit, but the guest…why isn’t he in Congress? He’s amazing, inspiring.)
The New Terrapin Gazette is a Republican outfit, right? Wrong, and in spades. Here is why.
If you are interested in US firearms legislation and information on the changes in levels of sales of firearms, this will bring you up to date. Not that all politicians in Washington want you to have the facts, you understand. If you don’t understand why this information is not politically correct, click, read, and learn.
According to this website, “Researchers trying to unravel the mystery surrounding the 1937 disappearance of (Amelia) Earhart in the Pacific have said they spotted debris under water that may have come from her plane.” Amazing! Who knew Earhart carried enough water with her to cover up the wreckage of her aircraft? And why in the world she would do that remains a mystery to this day.
Mike Mann is almost certainly the most influential of the academics (he’s at Penn State) who have crafted the myth of anthropogenic global warming. His work is examined in detail in The Hockey Stick Illusion, which has been mentioned here several times. He has finally boiled over and is threatening to sue a US magazine and Canadian writer for their criticisms of his alleged research — and the response has been to egg him on: “Please sue us, please!” If Mann takes the bait, he will regret the error to his dying day. What’s odd about this is that the commentary to which Mann so bitterly objects contains nothing new or half as damning as is found in other published accounts of how he constructed his infamous graph. Mann seems to have been stung by the humor of the piece. Frauds cope by claiming facts are lies, but the rascals cannot use that tactic against wit. Well, if that’s what it takes to draw the secretive professor out and expose him to the rigors of discovery, then hooray for wit!
You can learn and understand the basic, most important facts about US federal tax policy, including its impact on the economy, in fifteen or twenty minutes if you pore over these graphs. Then…your vote will count just as much as the vote of a person who is on the intellectual level of a housebroken Chihuahua.
Fear stalks the “wingnuts”. And a lot of their concerns are well-based. Evaluate the possible threats, and worry about the ones that seem most probable — but don’t ignore all of them, for the danger confronts you, too.
“More than four in 10 U.S. physicians said they were emotionally exhausted or felt a high degree of cynicism, or ‘depersonalization,’ toward their patients, said researchers whose findings appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine.” Well, fortunately all that will be fixed by the full-scale adoption of Obamacare; see Number 264 of this newsletter. (Quote from this webpage.)
When all the cards are down
there’s nothing left to see
There’s just the pavement left
and broken dreams
In the end there’s still that song
comes crying like the wind
down every lonely street
that’s ever been
The masthead includes a quote from the works of Ludwig von Bertalanffy.
The staff of The New Terrapin Gazette expresses its sincere gratitude to the many people who have gifted the world with Fedora Linux, Emacs, and Firefox.
Publisher: The Eagle Wing Palace of The Queen Chinee.