The New Terrapin Gazette

Number 276
3 November, 2012

The distinctive features of human beings — self-hood, free will, that collective space called the human world, the sense that we lead our lives rather than simply live them as organisms do — are being discarded as illusions by many, even by philosophers, who should think a little bit harder and question the glamour of science rather than succumbing to it.

The UN, Obama, Hillary And You

Freedom of speech and press are fundamental, essential. Here’s predictive commentary relating to Islam’s challenge to Liberty; unfortunately, the author spins a tale that could easily resemble events in the very near future. You may disagree, and if you do, by all means inform yourself about the fact that the UN disapproves of the USA’s first amendment to its constitution. Note as well that President Obama agrees (quoting The One: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”; in context here). NTG has already remarked that Obama called for more, not less, dispute and slander and hatred when he uttered those words.

You also need to realize that the Obama administration backed UN resolution 16/18, and you need to understand what that resolution says, so do click on the hyperlinks if you are unsure as to what has happened in Turtle Bay.

NTG would bet that not one US citizen in a hundred is aware of what the UN has done and how Team Obama agreed to the egregious resolution; indeed, the media are doing a nearly perfect job of underinforming and calming the citizenry (that’s euphemistic language for “keeping people ignorant and under control”).

As if on cue, Hillary endorsed the repression of speech when she said flatly that the videographer who made that silly film about Mohamed must be arrested and tried for his crime…even though he has committed no crime. Truly, the Obama administration has taken the bit in its teeth. Your rights are under frontal assault by a crew of rascals who plan to gut the first amendment in the Bill of Rights.

Foodstamps
Foodstamps On The Rise Means Growing Dependency For More People

The Red Cross And Other Disasters

The Dean of NTG subscribers has told this newsletter that his infuriating experiences in World War II make it impossible for him to donate to the Red Cross today. When the tsunami hit Southeast and South Asia, NTG suggested donations not go to Thai charities or to the Red Cross, but to the Salvation Army. Now the mini-disaster in the northeast of the USA — yes, that’s exactly what it is, a mini-disaster (see Afterword) — has some folks criticizing the Red Cross yet again.

Nothing is perfect, and it’s usually wrong to condemn an organization for making mistakes when it’s honestly trying to do a good job. Still it seems that Karina in New Orleans and Sandy in New England have delivered a lesson that has yet to be learned: first responders matter most.

Instead of resorting to huge national organizations like FEMA, people should be able to look to their counties, cities and towns for help. Accordingly, citizens should require those governments to prepare for problems.

Overall, local authorities are under-equipped, underfunded and inadequately trained to deal with disasters. That’s a mistake that can be corrected.

Depending on the Red Cross or the federal government to help you is simply foolish. When your home is destroyed and you are helpless, blaming politicians and professional fund-raisers will do you no good; both of those groups will use your complaints as excuses to demand more money from you. The politicians will raise your taxes “for the good of the people”, and the big charities will bloat their staffs and salaries with your donations. That’s not a cynical view — it’s a realistic one. The current system is improperly designed, and encouraging it by giving it more money enables further dysfunction.

Perhaps the academics who study such matters would say what is needed is a “paradigm shift”. This newsletter says the real requirement is that people realize how inefficient, slow and stupid disaster relief necessarily becomes when it is based far off. Help should come from facilities in the next town/city or the adjacent county.

Yes, of course some of those facilities will be damaged or wiped out in a disaster; they may, however, be located intelligently, placing them above the flood plain and away from areas at great risk for fire, for example. The point: it’s time for everybody to get a lot smarter about who will help, and where that help should come from.

Begin by telling the feds to stand down. No more tax money for FEMA! Take those funds and spend them where they will do some real good: in volunteer organizations that can make plans for the next earthquake, firestorm, bad weather, flood, or Islamofascist attack. (For another view, see this brief essay.)

Yes, it will be very hard to make Uncle Sam give up that money, so the real fight will not be over what to stockpile and where to put it, but what political pressures must be exerted to permit the citizenry to do efficiently what the federal government does poorly, slowly, and at inflated cost.

So: cuss the Red Cross if you want; that organization may well deserve it. But first look to getting your community/county/state ready to respond quickly, efficiently and adequately to disaster. Depend on local volunteers (of whom there will be many); don’t encourage bureaucrats to belly up to the public trough and grow their pensions. When the National Guard arrives and the Red Cross comes with coffee and donuts, they will find you safe and planning recovery.

As an added bonus, you won’t have to listen to a Romney or an Obama bray about how they “saved” you.

Afterword: calling Sandy a mini-disaster may sound cruel, and it may anger those who lost everything to the storm. By any rational standard, though, Sandy was small beer. The USA loses thirty-five thousand people a year to automobile accidents; that’s a slow genuine disaster spread thin, and it makes Sandy look trivial.

The tsunami in South and Southeast Asia killed a quarter of a million people. Katrina was puny by comparison, but it was worse than Sandy, and mostly because it was caused by local and federal stupidity (the city’s defenses had been neglected, in spite of the fact that everybody knew weather and the low elevation of New Orleans presented huge dangers — and still do).

When the Japanese tsunami hit the nuclear power plant, short-sighted design was exposed; that antiquated plant should never have been damaged by the waves. As for the inundations of the coastal cities, damage there far exceeded what Sandy did.

Folks in the USA are upset about Sandy because it caused inconvenience beyond New England, did some nasty damage locally, and kept people from getting gasoline on demand. Not good, and tragic in some cases — but not a fully-fledged disaster.

And yes, the populace lives with tragedy: how many people in the USA alone die every year because of mistakes made by physicians, or illnesses contracted in unsanitary hospitals? (Try looking here or here, and realize that even if these claims are inflated by as much as fifty percent, the numbers are still stunning. A hospital in the USA is not an ideal location for you if you are sick, because the chance you will pick up an infection there is simply too high. Then look at an attempted debunking of the statistics, and see how rational and confidence-inspiring you think it is.)

When something like Sandy hits, people focus and are infuriated by the mistakes made. But the constant drumbeat in the background is ignored. It’s in the background that many thousands of needless deaths occur, and a staggering amount of suffering occurs. Perspective, Pilgrims — regain your sense of perspective!

The Language Sometimes Gets In The Way Of The Ideas

For insight into the fundamentals, by all means read this powerful essay by Victor Davis Hanson. Proceed carefully, for his understanding of the contradictions and inanities by which we live can be blindingly revelatory. Then, when the seminal concepts are clear to you, set aside political philosophy and social criticism for a moment, and consider the very language Hanson employs. Here is an interesting sample:

Liberals believe that there are lots of crass and greedy one-percenters who live to profit, and as refined Greeks expect grubby Romans to work while they think and plan. Like cockroaches, you cannot get rid of the one-percenters, given their elemental grasping.

Well. How hard is the English language? Very. The above quote demonstrates that when the attention to detail wavers, the details can become tangled. One has to wonder how anyone, let alone Romans, can “work while they think and plan”. Maybe it’s possible for some folks, but work often requires single-mindedness. Yes, it’s a question of reference: to whom is the professor referring, Greeks or Romans? He was in a hurry to make his point, certainly, and that hurry is obvious in his next sentence, where he informs his readers that they are like cockroaches. Oops.

Well, Pilgrims, of course you can scan hundreds of back issues of this newsletter and come up with a plethora of errors of nearly all sorts. English is hard, and the pedant who pretends to have mastered it wallows in hypocritical arrogance. English grammar, rhetoric and spelling conspire to make everyone ignorant to some degree. A moment’s haste, combined with the slightest lack of focus — and the writer embarrasses himself. Blame the orthography and the logic and the amorphous structure of English before you scold the writer. English is hard.

If you are still reading, please allow this newsletter to advise you on two of the very fine points of English. They are unrelated to Prof. Hanson’s slips, but they are so common that they no longer trouble anyone (with the exception of this newsletter’s staff) and one of them could lead to serious problems, as shall be explained.

First, consider that if and whether are different words with different meanings. Most dictionaries do not give a definition for if, which is a shame; perhaps a good meaning would be, “In the event that”. Example: “If she is sick, we can take her to the hospital.” Now as a student of the German language would tell you, the word if can be translated as wenn, but not if one wants to say, “I don’t know if he is home”. Then the German ob must be used. It means “whether”.

Does it matter in English? Yes. Note that “If he’s home, we’ll ask him” means the same as, “We’ll ask him, if he’s home”. Meaning is not altered when the sequence of clauses is reversed. Now try that with, “I don’t know if he’s home”. “If he’s home, I don’t know” is clear: there is something the speaker will not know in the event that someone turns out to be not at home; if, however, that someone is at home, the speaker will therefore have some specific knowledge. The sheer nonsense of the reversed clauses is an indication that if was the wrong word to use.

Rule: don’t use if to mean whether.

The second example has to do with negation. We often ask negative questions: “Don’t you know that is dangerous?” “So he wasn’t home when you got there?” “Isn’t it cold outside?” The answers, unfortunately, are often suitable only for positive questions, which means they convey exactly the wrong information.

Imagine a trial. The witness is being cross-examined. “So, wasn’t the defendant gone by the time you arrived?” The response: “No.”

Based on that exchange, do you know whether the defendant was present when the witness arrived?

Look at it this way: there is a huge difference between the question, “Was he there?” and the question, “Wasn’t he there?” We often make the mistake of answering the second as if we had been asked the first. “No” to the first question means he was not there, which would require a “Yes” to the second.

Rule: answer the question. If you could be misunderstood, clarify: “Wasn’t he there?” “Yes. He was not there.”

Advisory: if this goes south on you, say, “Your question was, ‘Was he not there?’ You did not ask me, ‘Was he there?’ I responded positively to your negative, which means I agreed, and said he was not there. Had I responded negatively to your negative, that would have meant he was there. He was in fact not there. My answer was precise, logically correct, and truthful.” (You might add, “Go back to school, Counselor,” but that would probably draw a rebuke from the judge.)

All native speakers of whatever language slur their words, talk too fast, make mistakes and confuse people. Similar or analogous errors occur when written language is employed (flout – flaunt, for example). You have the considerable disadvantage of reading and writing one of the world’s most challenging languages; though it does not place inhumane demands on the memory (as the Chinese languages can), it is onerous. English has a massive total vocabulary, with a huge contribution made by French, and then smaller ones by Greek and Latin. That’s just the basic vocabulary. English probably has more words than any other language.

In this newsletter’s experience, there is no shortage of world travelers who, on arriving in some exotic clime, decide they will settle for a few years and teach English to the locals (they see that as an easy job that will earn them enough to pay for beers on the beach). “I’m a native speaker, a (college graduate, journalist, author), so I can do it, and these people really do need English.” No. First, native speaker or not, you are almost certainly unqualified to teach English to anybody. Second, your education probably does not qualify you to teach English as a second or foreign language, and your occupation means next to nothing. Third, your patronizing attitude toward the locals and inability to speak their language make you suspect as a candidate for a job teaching them anything. Fourth, are you sure you are not carrying The White Man’s Burden, even if you are not “white”?

A few years ago and thousands of miles away, this newsletter’s editor was asked to interview three native speakers of English who had applied for a position teaching their language to Southeast Asians. No candidate could provide a single example of a sentence in the subjunctive mood, two failed to recognize “alright” as an error, none could name a single reference for the English language that they depended on to advise them (no dictionary, no guide to correct usage, nothing!), and none had the slightest grasp of a school of thought regarding language teaching. Those failings are typical of folks who spout the “I grew up speaking it, it’s easy, I can help you with your English” nonsense.

Nobody’s perfect. The next time you find an error in this newsletter and wave it under the nose of NTG’s editor, be assured you will be told, “Of course you spotted a mistake, you silly twit! English is hard!

Links

This article in The Wall Street Journal is possibly the best publicly available account of what happened in Benghazi. It makes clear that both State and CIA were responsible for communication, planning and operational blunders. That raises the question of whether Petraeus and Hillary are working together — or can work together.

An oversight: when advising you on recorded music recently, this newsletter neglected to provide data regarding an exemplary recording of a tambora. If you can find RCA CDM-3345, La Banda Sinaloense El Recodo De Cruz Lizarraga, you will be in luck. Don’t forget the cerveza, and do not play the CD on a sissy audio system. A tambora deserves respect.

If you enjoy NTG, you should visit Bastionofliberty.

So the election has come down to this. Are you surprised?

The professionals in the major media press on with their drive always to give the electorate the full story; this comprehensively informative reporting shows their commitment to an informed electorate as the bedrock of representative democracy, and…and…ukk, look out, here comes lunch back up…oops, sorry….

Algore speaks! Rubbish. There is no “climate crisis”, as the chart in NTG 274 shows. There is no science that explains how “pollution” of whatever sort exacerbated Sandy. This man is a nutcase.

Democrats will denounce this as lies, Republicans will say it proves their points. In any event, it’s rather amusing. You decide what’s credible here and what’s not.

Cripes, with turnouts like this, the guy might even win!

Why would enabling the military to vote be a problem? Could it be because most of those serving are not likely to vote for Obama?

Aha! Now it can be told! Don’t skip this.

This should cost Obama the election, or get him impeached and removed from office. It will accomplish neither. That prediction could be wrong, of course, but most voters will never know anything about what happened. The major media will see to that.

“Wingnuts” are eager to toss Hillary overboard. If you read Liberal Fascism, you know there are solid reasons for that unfriendly attitude.

You should know what civil asset forfeiture is. And you should be aware of this pending case. — While you are catching up on the law, don’t forget 1001. It’s smugly authoritarian, excessive law that creates criminality out of innocence. Be aware, Pilgrims, and then be careful.

Bad, bad advice.

The virtually universal reaction to the full exposure of Hitler’s policies with respect to Jews was greeted — and still is greeted — throughout the Western world with, “It can’t happen here”. Oh, yes, it can.

Are you politically correct? Do you consider Romney a degenerate cultist and lackey of the plutocratic overlords of Wall Street? Are you planning a vacation? If you answered YES to all those questions, this is your lucky day! You are entitled to a free holiday in a scenic, exciting nation that will be delighted to receive you, and you can go at the expense of The New Terrapin Gazette! That’s right, for your FREE one-way ticket, just send an email to oneborneverydamnminute@googlemail.com, and you will be sent your travel documents for admission to this amazing garden spot! Act now!

Romney made the mistake of trying to do something nice. Fool.

Jess “Big Daddy” Unruh said it, and spent decades trying to get people to forget he said it: “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Ka-ching!

Benghazi, Obama, Hillary, and the media. Wheew! — Wait, there’s more!

Asked whether the news media will do their job responsibly, a weblogger replies: “I presume they would say…that the Benghazi story is too complicated and inflammatory to resolve in the narrow time before the election and that it’s unfair to dump this hugely burdensome issue on the President now. It would have an undue effect on the minds of the voters, who must be protected from an emotional flare-up which will keep them from weighing all the issues in the proper proportion. This is especially true — they would not say out loud — when the skewing goes against their preferred candidate. Of course, an equivalent issue affecting the incumbent in 2004 would have been splattered everywhere.” She is probably correct. Source.

FIRE announces a new book. The organization defends academic freedom. It’s a hard job because so many collectivists would like to shut down any and all potential opposition. Highly recommended.

When the last bolt of sunshine hits the mountain
And the stars start to splatter in the sky
When the moon splits the southwest horizon
With the scream of an eagle on the fly

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And listen to the ripples as they moan
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own

The masthead includes a quote from the works of Raymond Tallis.

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.