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Santorum’s Straw Man

Both right-wing conservatives and Democrats of every stripe cheered for Rich Santorum to win the Michigan Primary.  He had been doing so well recently that he looked like the giant killer that would put Mitt Romney out of contention .  But yesterday he lost it by a nose after giving some of the worst stump speeches by a major candidate ever seen in American politics.

If you can’t beat your opponent, you can try to build a straw man effigy and beat that instead. But you have to be clever to make the straw man look convincing.  Santorum’s clumsy construction fooled no one:

“The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country…to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up.”

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To be fair, the nominal cause of Santorum’s nausea was an old President Kennedy speech, but make no mistake; he was talking about Obama.  “I think we need to have a free exercise of religion in this country and it’s important for those First Amendment freedoms to be alive and well in America and I think they are threatened here in America as we’ve seen by President Obama.”  One small problem:  Neither Obama, Kennedy nor any other reputable figure in America has ever suggested that people of faith have no place in the public square.  Kennedy was a Catholic.  President Obama is a non-denominational Christian.

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Education is the means by which Obama, the ghost of Kennedy and any other dark agents of secular mischief will seek to rob the nation of its pious leaders.  “As you know,” said Santorum, “sixty-two percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.  And I’ll bet you there are people in this room who give money to colleges and universities who are undermining the very principles of our country every single day by indoctrinating kids in left-wing ideology.” And he leaves no doubt about who to blame for America’s apostacy.  “President Obama once said he wants everybody out there to go to college; what a snob! I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.”

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Never mind that the SSRC study* Santorum spoke of reached the opposite conclusion — people who don’t go to college suffer a greater decline in church attendance than those who do.  These are mere facts, and you don’t stuff a straw man with facts. It’s just that if you want to win in the big game, you’d better make the straw look convincingly factual.

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* Mark D. Regnerus; Jeremy E. Uecker. “How Corrosive Is College to Religious Faith and Practice?”. http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Regnerus_Uecker.pdf

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The Republican War on Hoo-Has

If you are among the 51% of Americans who have vaginas, the GOP plan in Virginia will be of interest to you.  Here is what the law recently passed by both Republican-controlled houses will do to you if you seek and abortion. For no medically sound purpose, a ultrasound probe will be inserted into your vagina and moved about to take pictures of your insides –  notwithstanding your doctor’s opinion that there is no valid reason for the procedure.  The not-so-subtle message from the GOP to every woman seeking an abortion is clear:   “Fuck you.”

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Abortion isn’t the only battleground in the GOPs War of Hoo-Has.  They don’t like contraception, either. One would think that right-to-life Republicans would want to cut back on unwanted pregnancies.  Not so.  The “personhood amendments” moving forward in several states will outlaw IUDs and the morning after pill as methods for preventing pregnancy.  Republican heads exploded over the HHS ruling that health insurance for secular employees of religious institutions would cover birth control.  The ruling, of course, does not force birth control on anyone. If you don’t believe in birth control, nothing will force you to practice it.  Yet Republicans make the ridiculous accusation that President Obama is waging an assault on religious freedom.

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The GOP wants to make darn sure that if you have sex you’ll get pregnant. It’ll serve you right for having sex.  Sex, and the squeamishness about sex that the ultra-conservatives suffer, is what this War on Hoo-Has is about.   Most people in America have hoo-has.  And the ones that have Willies like to have sex with them.  Amazingly, it doesn’t seemed to have dawned on the GOP leadership what a losing issue this is for them in an election year.

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Mitt Logic

Mitt Romney let slip another gem today, to which a quick application of some rudimentary logic yields a whopper of a conclusion.  The simplest logical structure is your basic syllogism. Every overalls-wearing hillbilly knows what a syllogism is, but for any guests who aren’t overalls-wearing hillbillies like us, some explanation may be needed.   A syllogism gives you two statements called premises.  If the two premises are accepted as true, then the third statement, called the conclusion, must also be true.  Here is what a syllogism looks like:

………Premise:  All men are mortal.

………Premise:  Socrates is a man.

………Conclusion:  Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

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What Romney told CNN today is this:  “By the way, I’m in this race because I care about Americans.  I am not concerned about the very poor”.   Now, we have to be very careful not to misinterpret what Romney said, but everyone will agree that  care about and concerned about mean pretty much the same thing.  We can, can’t we,  interchange these two terms without doing damage to Romney’s meaning?  With the equivalence of terminology established, we find two premises of a syllogism  in what Romney said:

………Premise:  I care about Americans.

………Premise:  I do not care about the very poor.

Therefore what?  The conclusion should be obvious to all, whether they are wearing overalls or not.

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Therefore, the very poor are not Americans.

We need to say for the record that Mitt Romney is a very decent person.  He would never come right out and say, even to himself, that poor people aren’t Americans.  And yet, the fact that his brain could string two such premises together  forces one to think that he really must believe it unconsciously.  They aren’t really Americans.  Not really.  The very poor are so far removed from the kind of folks Romney knows as his fellow Americans that they are a class apart.  They are foreign to his experience.  They are truly other.  And so they simply aren’t on his radar as a group meriting  focus and concern.  It’s Americans that he cares about instead.

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This was no one-off slip of the tongue.  Romney routinely goes off script and lets these beauties fly.  He likes to fire people.  Corporations are people, too.  Tax policy should only be discussed by our betters in quiet rooms.  And poor people aren’t Americans.  Not really . . . all of which is money in the bank for Democrats this fall.

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The Sound of English

 

Right now, say a few words in fake French.  Don’t use real French words,  just imitate the French sound.  If there is someone in the room with you chances are good they will correctly guess it was French you were imitating.  It would probably work just as well with fake Chinese,  fake Spanish or fake Norwegian.  But now try something else:  say a few words in fake English.  You can’t do it, can you?  You don’t know what English sounds like.

I know what French sounds like, I know what Russian sounds like and I know what Japanese sounds like.  But like you  I don’t have any idea what English sounds like.  English is my native language, which is probably the reason I don’t know what it sounds like.

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Sid Caesar is the master of fake languages.  It is hilarious and delightful to hear the way he captures the nuances of a language’s sound with complete gibberish, as he does in the video below.  I always want Sid to mock English next, but he can’t do it.  He doesn’t know what English sounds like.

This question has been in the back of my mind for years.  What does English sound like?  It must be hard for a native speaker to know how English sounds for the same reason that a fish doesn’t know anything about water.  A fish is no doubt an expert in the uses of water, but because everything in the fish’s world is in the water, water is just a normal and ubiquitous part of his fish reality. He doesn’t separate it out as something.  And so it is with everyone who was steeped from birth in English.

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If we could hear fake English would we learn what English sounds like?  Well, there is one (and only one) good example of fake English available on the Internet.  Get ready to jam to the nonsense verses of Italian comic Adriano Celentano  that are intended to sound like American English.

Adriano Celentana knows what English sounds like because he’s an Italian.  I know his fake English is good because it makes me think I could almost understand what he is saying if I listened  a little harder. My non-rational, intuitive side swallows his fake English hook, line and sinker as English. From the standpoint of pure aesthetics, it might as well be English. It’s so good that  I’m back at square one, oblivious to what English sounds like on any aesthetic level. I might as well try describing what my tongue tastes like.

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And so I am led to wonder:  what else do I know absolutely nothing about for the reason that it has pervaded my reality since day one? Can I tell you what my religion or my politics is like if my native perspective in these matters is all I have known?   If I don’t know very much about world cultures, can I say what it’s like to be an American? Worse yet, what if I am asked to describe something with which there is no contrast?  “Define reality.  What is truth?  Discuss the meaning of life.”  Sure . . . as opposed to what?

Sorry, I got nothing when it comes to questions like this.  There are times when I think I got something, but right now I don’t.  And I am certain I have really heard the sound of English on more than one occasion.  But damned if I can remember what it sounds like.

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Free Money

Industrialization has been a blessing and a curse to the human race. We have developed marvelous technologies for supplying goods and services with a minimum of human drudgery. Machines eliminate work.  When you eliminate the work needed to supply the basic necessities you have leisure to do whatever you like.  At the most basic level, isn’t that the reason for having machines?

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The trouble is that labor is the only commodity some people have to sell.  When automation puts them out of work they have no money.  This in turn means that the machines cannot continue to run at full capacity, because now not everyone has money to buy the product.  It is a curious situation.  With humans working, we have a product and the means to distribute it.  With machines working, we can make plenty of product but we have a serious problem distributing it to people.

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The conservative solution is to let the unemployed “root hog, or die” ,  a sentiment markedly devoid of human compassion.  The idea is that the economy left to itself will reach a kind of equilibrium where unemployment and profit are properly balanced in a sustainable way.  However, this approach has led today to the widest gap between rich and poor in American history, a gap that shows no sign of slowing its yawning expansion.   The liberal solution of forcing the out-of-work to shamefacedly accept public assistance is only slightly better.  A third solution is often applied wherein millions of unemployed are paid to do work of a useless or even destructive nature, such as making war.  This has the double benefit of enabling the previously out-of-work to buy mass-produced widgets while at the same time reducing the numbers of previously out-of-work people.

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The only rational solution to the technology/employment problem should be obvious to anyone not immersed in the peculiar social biases of planet earth.  The community as a whole should issue itself credit (money) for the work that the machines do.  This credit will be given to every community member.  It will guarantee each person at least a basic, subsistence living, while at the same time guaranteeing the managers and owners a market for their product.  With the necessities of life guaranteed, not only will poverty be effectively eliminated, but people who today feel trapped in meaningless work will be free to pursue their dreams to be artists, inventors, musicians, writers or craftsmen.  And if some small minority has no ambition but to smoke crack and watch TV, they can do that.  We would be right to guess that the latter would reproduce at a somewhat slower rate and eventually disappear by the process of natural selection.

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“Hold on a minute,” someone asks.  “Exactly where will all this free money come from?”  The answer is that money does not come from anywhere. Money is not a resource mined from the earth like iron or uranium.  As we have discussed before, money is an abstract symbol like an inch or a degree on the Farenheit scale.  It is a unit of measurement that we invent as needed.  When we invent and print money based on real, actual resources (such as the work machines do), there is no reason for any major inflation.

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There are a thousand objections to the free money plan, not least of which is that it is just against common sense.  It is also against common sense that the earth is round, that it orbits the sun and that it inhabits a curved spacetime continuum.  It has taken 500 years of eduction to get some of these ideas across to humanity, and some have yet to be gotten across.

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Quiet Rooms

When you get Mitt Romney off his 3×5 note cards, little windows open up that reveal his real thoughts.  Like that time in debate he mentioned how he told his groundskeeper he couldn’t hire any illegal aliens because he’s running for office, for God’s sake. Or when he said how much he likes being able to fire people.  Well, this week he let slip a doozy.

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In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, the topic came up of the GOP’s accusation that Democrats are engaging in class warfare trying to stir up envy and jealousy among the masses.

Lauer:  .“Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?”

Romney: “You know, I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms. But the president has made this part of his campaign rally.”

As to who can be  in the quiet rooms where income disparity is discussed, Romney didn’t say. We can only surmise that he feels these matters are properly debated in secrecy by captains of industry and playboys of high finance, with maybe a few politicians in attendance to give the quiet rooms an air of official sanction.

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It is clear, however,  who is not called to Mitt Romney’s quiet rooms:  you and me.  God forbid a public figure should discuss matters of wealth and poverty within earshot of us little people, lest we proletarians be incited to take up our torches and pitchforks to raise a Marxist revolution against the Wall Street bourgeoisie. Much better to keep it in the quiet rooms and post security outside the door.  Nothing going on here. Move along.

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To be fair, Mitt Romney’s Quiet Rooms doctrine has noble origins, and it might even have merit. Plato, who was a strident foe of democracy, had the same idea 2,500 years ago. In his Republic a few wise and benevolent philosopher-kings worked these matters out in quiet rooms amongst themselves, while telling noble lies to the vulgar common rabble outside,  just to keep everything nice and orderly.  And who among us hasn’t thought at one time or another what a rotten thing democracy is, given the results of some elections? And yet, Plato surely didn’t mean that the philosopher-kings in the quiet rooms, who only seek  wise counsel for the well-being and happiness of all, would be corporate buccaneers from Banes Capitol  like Mitt Romney, swooping in to destroy firms and chop the legs off working folks for the benefit of a few investors.

What a window into the soul opens when Mitt Romney goes off script. Look for many more of them in the coming months as he goes head to head with President Obama.

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Flu Update

Greetings, Friends:  Your humble blogger has been ill since Christmas.  However, just to let you know he’s still here and remains your champion of American greatness as manifested in topless overalls, here is a photos-only update for your approval.  Check again next weekend and chances are he’ll have a thing or two to say.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

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