June 24th, 2008

Wordsmiths for Obama: style vs. substance, poetry vs. prose

In trying to understand what about Obama appeals so powerfully to his supporters, I’ve decided that some—perhaps even much—of it is style.

He gives a good speech. He has a deep voice. He’s tall. He’s slender. He knows what a dap is. And he can turn a literary phrase.

The latter is the reason some literary folk like him, anyway, by their own report—that’s according to at least two examples of the genre, fiction writer Michael Chabon, and Sam Anderson, who appears to be a book reviewer at New York Magazine, and is the author of the article from which the following excerpts are taken [quotes italicized, with my comments interspersed in regular print]:

Michael Chabon, arguably America’s best line-by-line literary stylist, says he became a proselytizing Obama supporter after reading a particularly impressive turn of phrase in the senator’s second book—a conversion experience that seems, on first glance, inexcusably silly, but on fifth glance might be slightly profound.

No, even on fifth glance, it’s not even slightly profound. It’s profoundly slight.

How much can you tell about a candidate’s fitness to lead a country based on a single clause?

Nothing.

The substance/style debate has been around for centuries—and, like all the other venerable binaries, is probably best considered as a symbiosis. Too often, style is dismissed as merely a sauce on the nutritious bread of substance, when in fact it’s inevitably a form of substance itself. This goes double for the presidency, where brilliant policy requires brilliant public discourse.

Policy can certainly be assisted in being sold to the public by brilliant public discourse, and that can be important—witness the failure of George Bush to do so. The masters were Lincoln and Winston Churchill, and to a lesser degree FDR and Reagan, and Tony Blair in our time. But if the substance isn’t there, the style not only does not substitute for it, but can be dangerously misleading because it can seductively mask the lack of substance with its captivating siren song.

If you can think your way through a sentence, through the algorithms involved in condensing information verbally and pitching it to an audience, through the complexities of animating historical details into narrative, then you can think your way through a policy paper, or a diplomatic discussion, or a 3 A.M. phone call.

Isn’t it pretty to think so? Wordsmiths fancy they could govern quite well, if only they cared to. Neither the skills nor the knowledge base of oration or of writing—especially fiction, although it’s also true of writing in general—are readily transferable to forming and implementing policy, although they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Did Anderson ever watch a tape of Truman giving a speech? He makes McCain look like Churchill. Truman was not good at oration—but he is now thought of as having been a good president although his popularity, like Bush’s, was very low when he left office. Perhaps the latter fact is an indication that good speechmaking is helpful for selling one’s policies and bad speechmaking handicaps a president who is involved in a complex and difficult war, such as the Korean or the Iraq wars.

Style tells us, in a second, what substance couldn’t tell us in a year.

It tells us a lot, indeed—but only about style. It tells us nothing about substance.

Hillary Clinton—not especially known for her oratorical skills—had a much better way of putting it. You might even call her words eloquent—because they happen to have both style and substance:

You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.

48 Responses to “Wordsmiths for Obama: style vs. substance, poetry vs. prose”

  1. Gringo Says:

    What does not do Obama credit is that while he may be a good orator with a prepared speech, there have been too many times that he has been filmed saying a bunch of “ums” and “uhs” when he departs from the prepared text, and perhaps from the teleprompter.

    He does not appear to think on his feet very well, given all those “uh” moments.

  2. huxley Says:

    This is a conceit that goes back to the 1930s (at least). Then poets and writers thought the fate of western civilization hinged on the quality of their writing. We got World War II, though not really because of the writing.

    I write and I care about writing but I am deeply ashamed of how foolish writers are when they say things like Michael Chabon in his support for Obama.

    It’s as silly and frightening as wishing we had put Ezra Pound, one of the great American poets of the 20th century who also became a great voice for fascism, in charge of America instead of FDR.

  3. Brad Says:

    A major problem with “Wordsmiths” is that they can grow to believe their delusions and allow a turn of a phrase to trump logic.

  4. FredHjr Says:

    There is an important article by J.R. Dunn over at americanthinker.com today, “The Obama Left.” I highly recommend going over there to read it. Consistently that site publishes articles of very high quality, and the blog discussions are interesting too.

    I have always believed that Obama’s weakness is his substance, and that so far he has not been tested and cornered about it. This has to be done. McLame has to go for this jugular and open it up, so that the Marxist makeup of his lifeblood is spilled out on the pavement.

    In the article “The Obama Left” the first group described is “the wimp Left.” These are the people who fall for the wordsmithing. Their discourse is a collection of strung-together talking points and slogans. By allowing Obonga to ply these people with vapid demagoguery and not challenging the substance of his mind, we allow the wimp Left to pull in people from the Middle Muddle, thereby tipping the balance of this election in his favor. If you expose the Communist, Hard Left base of his intellect, you will repel most of the Middle Muddle and may even cause some defections from the wimp Left.

    The Weird Left and the Hard Left will never vote for McLame. We just want to expose WHY Obonga identifies with the Hard Left. Nail down what he believes and thinks – not just his associations (which he can easily throw under the bus) – and he is transformed from The Golden Mouth Shape Shifter from Chicago to a desperate politician caught in a bind he cannot get out of.

  5. expat Says:

    Great post and comments. While we are on the topic of style, did you hear that Donatella Versace is going to base her 2009 men’s line on Obama? I sincerely hope she has to rename it Loser Line. I simply can’t believe the self importance of all these beautiful minds and beautiful people.

  6. T Says:

    “. . .slightly profound. . . ?” Is that even possible? Like being slightly pregnant?

  7. Trimegistus Says:

    I suppose it’s not too surprising that people who make their living by writing think that writing is incredibly important and fundamental to all political discourse. It’s stupid, but understandable.

    What isn’t understandable is the mysterious delusion that Barack Obama’s speeches contain any passages of good or innovative phrasing. He just rings changes on the same array of stock liberal chimes — when he’s not following their standard Orwellian tactic of redefining words to mean what they want them to.

    Obama’s eloquence is an “informed attribute” (to use a little writer jargon). It’s a quality we’re told he has, but never actually see examples of. His speeches are described as eloquent, but actual excerpts of them reveal nothing but empty wind. His delivery is adequate, but there’s entirely too much forced casualness, pseudo-emotion, and jarring sound-bite insertions.

    There hasn’t been a good political speaker in this country since Roosevelt.

  8. TorchofLiberty Says:

    I really look forward to debates between McCain and Obama. It will be interesting to see McCain challenge Obama on substantive issues and see if Obama is still so eloquent when he tries to explain how his 2002 Iraq War position is a tangible Iraq policy for the future.

  9. Fred Says:

    tried to post this earlier but did no for some reason. this is from Feb 2008 in connection with nominating Petraeus for VP; would love to hear thoughts:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/tim_hames/article3345681.ece

    “That audacious, bold, reinforcing choice would be to nominate General David Petraeus, commanding general of the multinational force in Iraq and the author of the “surge” that has saved the United States in Iraq as well as the Iraqi people (and revived Mr McCain’s bid for the presidency in the process). His scheme is now being duplicated successfully in Afghanistan by his disciples in the US Army.

    America has a long tradition of looking to military leaders in times of turmoil. This has stretched through Washington to Grant to Eisenhower and might have placed Colin Powell in the Oval Office in 1996 if he had been prepared to stand. General Petraeus, who holds a doctorate from Princeton University, is the greatest military thinker of his generation. He has managed to take a vast army that was effective at conventional fighting but close to useless when confronted with a guerrilla enemy and turn it into an organisation that can today do counter-insurgency superbly. This is an achievement that makes turning a supertanker around on the high seas during inclement weather look as easy as clicking one’s fingers. General Petraeus is a genius.

    A McCain-Petraeus combination would be a team almost above politics. It would be sensational. It would win. I concede that it is unlikely to materialise. Yet if it did, it would be worth a lot more than a pitcher of warm, er, spit.”

  10. bad haikumenter Says:

    Worm digs soft Spring mud
    I write bad Summer haiku;
    Can’t be President.

  11. Michael Tinkler Says:

    As someone who spends far too much time actually having to put numbers on the bottom of papers for “Style” and “Content,” great style means no points off. No content means a low grade to start with.

  12. FredHjr Says:

    I know that what I am about to write is off-topic on this thread. It might have a tangential relationship with it. Anyway, here goes. I still experience what I call echoes or residue from my Leftist days many years ago. Not the ideological kind, since I utterly reject Marxism now. Instead, I draw upon the Church’s long tradition of social teaching. I know we conservatives try to screen out “feelings” from how we reason about society’s problems. I find that there are times when in my gut I do not agree with some really hard views of some conservatives when it comes to how to deal with people who simply are not able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Sometimes I find that I am in a no-man’s land in between the conservative worldview and the concerns typical of the Left, i.e., the left out.

    Feelings are a part of how I engage in ethical thinking. They don’t dominate the intellect, but they can inform it. In the Gospels many of the things Jesus of Nazareth does for those in need are not to be found in a rational treatise. He was moved by their suffering, and he did something about it. The Church tries to infuse its moral teaching with the aesthetical component, and a part of the aesthetics of moral reasoning takes human feeling into consideration.

    One of the things that I find offensive about Obonga’s wordsmithing is how he plays on people’s feelings. But he does so at a level that I find insulting. It’s leading people on, not really giving them energy and the imperative to go forth and do good for others and for themselves. It’s purpose is to draw them in towards himself, not outward towards humanity. I’ve read almost all of the classic works of liberation theology, but thankfully I did not read James Cone. Cone I consider to be more of a demagogue than a true thinker. Believe it or not, there are some works, papers and publications in that theology that have elements we can learn something from. The closer it is to imitatio Christi, the more compatible with the classic tradition it is, because it is less tainted with Marxist ideology and class warfare.

    I don’t sense any theological depth to Obonga. There is no evidence of a struggle to meet the challenge of this imitatio Christi. He is entirely absorbed in the struggle to reach the pinnacle of power. Beware of this man and his ilk. But, also beware of people who exhibit complete heartlessness too.

  13. harry McHitlerburtonstein the COnservative Extremist Says:

    bad haikumenter rocks!

  14. expat Says:

    Fred,
    One of the problems with huge bureaucratic solutions to social problems is that they can lead to heartlessness by absolving individuals of responsibility. This is partly what happened in the heat deaths in France; relatives and neighbors didn’t check on old people living alone. Sometimes smaller, more local programs and spontaneous fundraisers for a needy person or family can do a lot to keep people involved in the mainstream community, and sometimes they are more responsive to specific needs.

  15. FredHjr Says:

    expat,

    We are in complete agreement about that. As an undergrad economics major and an MBA in Finance, I know the limits and traps of statist solutions. Engagement close to the problem is the preferred path. But, I think targeted and well-managed government programs can sometimes be a help too. We live in a society in which communities and people are in fact disconnected. It’s a fact. Lamentable though we consider it. I’m well aware of what happened in France and why. Part of me is still in the “old fashioned” Democrat Party, not the one as it has evolved more towards socialism and the internationalist elitism that George Soros wants.

    If government does everything, then it has to tax us at confiscatory rates, and this depresses economic growth. Europe is an example of this: stagnant growth and out-of-control entitlements. Kids in France do not want the chance of being let go from their first jobs. Their older people do not want to give up any entitlements, choking off the possibility of small companies growing and creating jobs. In France, in effect, there are very small businesses, government, and large, monopolistic, state-subsidized companies which still outsource a lot of jobs overseas anyway.

    The little I’ve heard of Obonga’s grasp of economics and business, the more I am convinced he is entirely out of his depth there. His advisers are committed statists and soft-socialists.

  16. Jim C. Says:

    Mario Cuomo said that phrase before Hillary did, and she was quoting him. He doesn’t actually say he originated it. And the thought goes way back.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    Jim C.: you mean, I can’t even give Hillary credit for that? And here I thought it just might have been her finest hour.

  18. vegas art guy Says:

    Part of writing and speaking is to have a point. I don’t care how great the writing is if it lacks purpose it’s incomplete.

  19. Artfldgr Says:

    Its like models.

    we think of models as incredibly exceptional. but what they are exceptional in, is being average.

    a super model is incredibly average (symetrical and a few other things).

    so why would someone so average press our buttons unlike others (at least when we look at them)?

    charisma is the same as this. its an incredible level of averageness.

    so how does that work?

    everyone has tastes. they have things they like and things they dont.

    if you think of these myriad of things as values on one side, and if you think of each person who steps up has their actual values (appearance wise), you will find that the average gives you a shorter distance from all these points.

    if you think that we also tend to bend towards the things we like (show preference? sorry dont know the psych speak), in a kind of feedback look, a person who exhibits this incredible averageness is as close to all things to all people as is possible.

    if wishful thinking makes you lean a bit if they fit, then the average have less distance between what they are and the ideals that people have. (yes there is a possible higher score, a perfect match, but in the game of fishing for options, the average has statistical advantage over all others)

    well… same thing with things like charisma… how can someone be all things to all people? be liked by most? and yet never having been met…

    well, its a incredible averageness…

    if he was a ‘personality’, rather than a bland everything, then he would cause groups to choose.

    each thing that you do that expresses you, is something that divides the crowd. the more you express, the fewer people will like your combinations. the less you express, the more people will be willing to like you. you become everyman, everywoman, and what you then get is the illusion of connection, understanding, etc.

    its what gets us…

    we dont realize that the terror is in the average, not the exceptional, except maybe the exceptionally average.

    the less you have and know, the less you have to oppose. its the reason the long shot shooting star from nowhere succeeds.

    we know little of the ACTUAL person. want to know how he can be friends with frank, or others and not get it slimed on him?

    its because he is a non entity. he is not a three dimensional person who your trying to like, he is a nothing, that you cant stick things to.

    without knowing the actual person the assertions of all the people around him wont stick, since you have no reference to determine if he would or wouldnt agree with that. so reverend wright means nothing as we dont have anything to compare to.

    as with everything the benifits come with negatives, and the mind caps off things that dont make sense by making us skip over it fast.

    we expect to examine a person that is defined in relation to something else. so we want to examine obama we know against wright, then determine something.

    however, we have wright, and we dont have obama. sooooooo… the mind does not get obsessivly stuck with this any more than you can see your literal blind spots without knowing how to ‘see’ them.

    obama is a total average, and the average wouldnt accept that, and soooooo, the result of the computation with the incomplete data is to say no.

    if the girl next door, the everyman, etc appeals, which we know they do… then this is where we get our conviction that we know the charismatic person.

    hitler was not a knight in shining armor (despite the poster), he was an average kind of small man.

    how about mao? stalin?

    all people you wouldnt notice on the train or street.

    just average any bodies, just like you. you know yourself, and you represent the average (or thats how most think), and so he is average and so you both are the same… you wouldnt accept such teachings even if you sat there, so he couldnt have either.

    for the same reason the marlboro man sells cigarettes.. but in a more complex way.

  20. Paul Gordon Says:

    To Expat:

    My feelings on bureaucratic solutions to social problems are best summed up by Jerry Pournelle …

    “Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:
    In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.”

  21. Artfldgr Says:

    Sometimes I find that I am in a no-man’s land in between the conservative worldview and the concerns typical of the Left, i.e., the left out.

    i can bail you out of this one fred…

    in these moments you forget about charity. you forget that almost every church has food banks (i have had to use twice in my life), and so… those that cant usually can, but wont when others are willing to do for them.

    the sad thing the left doesnt get is that wealth creates the ability to choose to waste it. so in the old days people were hired by small businesses that necessarily wouldnt make it. they slept in the back room, worked, got along… and made more than they were worth because of how people are at the individual grainy level.

    before the state helped people did. next time you crack a book open at hospitals, look at their names. a large percentage of them are from religous and philathropic origins. if you ever get the chance to be inside mount sinai, monte fiore, st judes, maimedes, etc… you might take notice of the names and dedications all over the place.

    almost all before the modern era of state charity.

    exceptions being things that are not just gifts but a kind of marketing thing..

    so when your worrying about what happens to these people, they do better when everyone does better. they never do better when everyone does poorly. and when the state is socialist, they eventually get rid of them through administrative rationing, or some other means spaning the spectrum.

    when i lost my job and didnt have unemployment and was still looking, people took care of me. the girl that works down the block would dish out a plate for dinner from her husbands and hers… the neighbors found a common gronud and adopted me where i fixed drawers, faucets, etc… and they fed me and gave me a beer or two…

    now i am not poor by any means, but i have been through some tough times and grew up poor. and it was my growing up that taught me that of most poor, only some get some help from the state (hope you like cheese in block form), the rest always get by. they dont really get help from the state… the state dont help… the others that never get in this position think that state help gets to people and helps them… nope… the vast manority of them live as before… (on a national level many are land rich and cash poor)

    unlike other countries, america when left to be prosperous for its people has enough that people share and help… its when this extra is taken that everyone shuts their doors and says theyc ant spare it. evne if they hve it… they know that the way the state is, they might lose it or need it, so they cant share it.

    in the past a bum could get a bite to eat at teh back door for doing some chores. not because there was a sign on the door looking for help, but because thousands would invent things they needed and gave them some cash for the work.

    many wouldnt accept charity…
    so only would take it if they did work.

    cant get back to that unless there are no more state nipples giving out just enough to make people believe that they help.

    so dont get too worried… people help people when they know that others arent already being helped.

    [oh, and another time a person prchased some art that i had time to do for them... i just did a complete photo shoot of their bar. no money. dont owe them other than i owe them inside. good people doing good things, others returning the favor. its how real life is!]

  22. FredHjr Says:

    artfldgr,

    When I was a Jesuit seminarian in Boston, Washington, D.C. , and in Chicago we gave out food at the back door to our kitchen to the homeless beggars. No questions asked. But no money, because we knew a certain number of these guys were alcoholics and drug addicts. I even went one step further once, on a cold December afternoon. A couple of guys came to the back door – that day it was my duty to cook for the novitiate community – knocked and I answered. They lacked winter clothes and were utterly freezing. They asked if I had any spare winter clothing. I had no spare coat, but I did have an extra pair of mittens, a scarf, and a hat. I told them to wait, went up to my room and got them, and then came down and gave them to the guys. I told them it wasn’t much, but it was all I had to spare. I don’t say this to brag. It’s just an anecdote about an incident from my past that supports what you wrote above. People can help without the state and they should. But I still think there should be some kind of safety net, as long as it is not onerous and does not demand high taxation. My ideal: mostly private charity efforts with some government, but not a large amount of government.

    Your story is moving and inspiring. I come from a lower-middle class background. I got through college on the GI Bill and working. Even had to take out a couple of loans. I am sure if it was not for the GI Bill I would not have had the means to do it. Some would say that I earned that and they have a point. But, I still see it as a government program.

  23. Bookworm Says:

    I enjoy a well-turned phrase myself, but at some point, the substance just has to come through. I tolerated West Wing for a long time, simply because the writing was lovely, but eventually I couldn’t stand the horrible political proselytizing. And that show, unlike Obama, actually said something.

    This whole thing reminds me of the liberal love affair with Adlai Stevenson. My Dad, decades later, still mooned about the man’s lovely language — but even he had to concede that the less than silver-tongued Eisenhower was a good president.

    Of course, the flip side of the whole thing is the dreadful hostility to Bush, based in large part on his countrified speech. The whizzes on Manhattan and in Boston simply can’t accept that someone with Southern speech stylings can actually be bright.

  24. Jimmy J. Says:

    Many people who end up homeless or in dire financial straits are addicted or mentally ill. Some, however, are just economically illiterate.

    Case in point. I had a close relative who always made a living wage, but never saved nor invested and he spent money unwisely. He ended up in retirement with an income that was small but, if he was careful, certainly adequate. Then he got cancer. He was in and out of the hospital several times. Had good health insurance so the medical bills were no real problem.

    His wife was a dependent woman who knew nothing about their finances. She started getting bill collectors calls and did not know what to do. She called on me and I took a look at their finances. Long story short – they owed the IRS and had large credit card debts. In addition they were renting in a place that was too expensive for their income. I consulted a financial consultant and lawyer who advised me to have them file bankruptcy and move them into a more affordable apartment. This was done and they were set up on a budget that would allow them to meet their bills. I sent money occasionally to give them something for a little extra. I hoped that all was well.

    He lived for four years and when he died I learned that they had more debts and still owed the IRS. I settled up the debts for his wife. She moved to live with their daughter who had a good job and was willing to give her a roof over her head.

    This broke my heart but also opened my eyes. This man was smart, had a good job while he was working, but did not know how to save or economize. He died in debt and left his wife with nothing but Social Security.

    The lesson here is that there are some people who do not know how to manage money. Some of them live lives of quiet desperation while in debt and some, I’m sure, become homeless.

    FredHjr, what is to be done about these kinds of people? If they have family who are able and willing they can get help there. But what does society owe to these people who can’t or won’t manage their lives properly? Whether it is addiction, poor money skills, or mental illness I feel sorry for these people, but should the government be the primary safety net? Or is it family first, charity second, and then government as a last resort?

    This is a problem we seldom talk about in specifics in our society. We just want someone to take care of these unfortunate people and let us forget about the problem. Unfortunately, the dems offer the promise of doing this, but I have noticed that, in spite of the “War on Poverty,” the poor are still with us.

  25. grackle Says:

    Many Americans seem to be yearning for a smooth-talking leader. What he says matters less than how he says it.

    Bush earned a 77 cumulative grade average at Yale, while Kerry’s was 76 – slightly lower. Yet Kerry was usually characterized as the intellectual pitted against the stupid Bush. Such was and is the direction of MSM spin.

    Generations of twangy, seemingly inarticulate Southern and Southwestern fellows have taken advantage of this built-in bias against the drawl. Recent Presidents from Georgia, Arkansas and Texas have turned this ostensible handicap into an advantage – which is they always seem to be underestimated by their opponents during campaigns.

    Bush will retire undefeated in the field of politic elections. He has won every race he has ever entered. But he is a poor public speaker and has that drawl and they just can’t bring themselves to see the reality beyond the mainly MSM-imposed stereotype. “Surely someone who speaks like that can’t be worth taking seriously,” they must have thought.

  26. emmanuelgoldstein Says:

    This post is even worse than the previous one, which is saying a lot.

    …Neither the skills nor the knowledge base of oration or of writing—especially fiction, although it’s also true of writing in general—are readily transferable to forming and implementing policy, although they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    Clarity of thought and expression are indispensable for both of good writing and policy-implementation.

  27. strcpy Says:

    Obama is *not* a wordsmith – he has speech writers who are. He is a decent orator if he has the speech written earlier but otherwise is horrid.

    A great example is Bristol Tennessee. Compare and contrast the following two sound bites.

    Pre-scripted: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48LS-Z3Wdhs&NR=1

    This is absolute great – in fact it is as good an oratory as one can find. Even those of us who do not believe in this claptrap can not be but moved. Were he even remotely telling the truth it would be a politician dream candidate.

    But then we have this from the same meeting – not scripted: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsJLdE9DELs

    well, not so good. In fact horrid, it is hard to figure worse. *Forty* full second of floundering – and I mean bad floundering. I can see a few seconds – any of us that have done public speaking will find ourselves in that situation. However *40* seconds? That is Obama unscripted and not under pressure. There are some out there of him under pressure that are worse. There is a more complete video of another unscripted 30 or seconds of floundering not in this recording and at the Bristol Virginia rally (he was sleepy, he said, from staying up late last night).

    Of course he is doing everything in his power to *not* do unscripted appearances because of this. But he will have too, townhall meetings and such are an expected part of the campaign now.

    There is no way the media can cover that on highly Nielson rated debates and being “sleepy” isn’t going to cover it. One answer in a meeting like that is enough – but two or more? Had he waited another 10 years to get rid of these problems he would have won in a landslide, as is he probably just killed his political career (unless McCain really flubs it – not that I don’t think he can).

  28. Jamie Says:

    Clarity of thought and expression are indispensable for both of good writing and policy-implementation.

    If “clarity of … expression” could only be used in service of substance (and particularly beneficial substance), I’d possibly grant you this point, emmanuelgoldstein. But oratory has a long and inglorious history of being used to deceive and to influence without substantial backup. It’s necessary to think clearly in order to be a policy-maker. It’s necessary to communicate your policies effectively in order to put them into play, whether in council or in public. But without the policies themselves, oratory is just purty talk. Best case, that is…

    Worst case, it’s rhetoric for the sake of convincing people of something they wouldn’t otherwise believe, which is (I believe) the case with quite a lot of what Obama’s selling.

    I’ve lived all over the country, and perhaps this is why I don’t use the accents of the South and of Texas as shortcuts to an assessment of the speaker’s intelligence. Just the same, mispronunciation of certain words is no sign of a speaker’s grasp of the concepts being discussed: it’s patent that everybody knows someone, often a bunch of someones, who mispronounces “nuclear.” It’s obvious (and it’s been obvious for a very long time!) that how one expresses oneself affects how one is perceived – the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady springs particularly to mind – but it’s a terrible mistake to assume the reverse: that one’s surface perceptions accurately reflect the underlying substance. Do yourself a favor and don’t make this mistake.

  29. TmjUtah Says:

    “Clarity of thought and expression are indispensable for both of good writing and policy-implementation.

    Clarity never stopped anyone from having their lunch money taken away.

    That’s what Obama will bring to the presidency.

    We’re screwed.

  30. armchair pessimist Says:

    Devil his due, before old Sen Byrd fell into his dotage, he was a grand orator, as were so many of the old southern pols. Obama is no more in that league than tin is gold.

  31. SteveH Says:

    Too much eloquent expression is exactly whats given the used car salesman a bad reputation. Why the worst ones of these can venture into politics and be percieved as automatic “statesmen” says more about citizen gullibility than anything else.

    Show me someone overly educated in the art of persuasion, and i’ll show you someone usually under educated in areas of substance.

  32. FredHjr Says:

    I wonder Abraham Lincoln would have done today in the age of the teleprompter and speech writers?

    I think he would have found these conditions intolerable.

  33. Bugs Says:

    Words are what people lie with.

  34. Artfldgr Says:

    before i write, i have to apologize… i have so much to say, so little space, and so i digress way too much. about the only saving grace i can offer is that perhaps its a bit more interesting. again. sorry.

    Sdfsfs

    Fredhjr,
    Thanks for the kind words. And I am glad that you knew the truth in what I am writing, however, the only thing I would disargree with is:

    But I still think there should be some kind of safety net, as long as it is not onerous and does not demand high taxation.

    There was one… it was called family and dynasty. Don’t you see father and son business any more? of course not. feminism (gender Marxism) declared that women would not be free until the instate of family and fatherhood was dead.

    Well, without our normal culture, and our normal way of interacting and joining up for mutual benefit, we need owners who will control us from cradle to grave in exchange for care. Failure to do what they say, leaves you outside the tribe. like the Ukrainians when Stalin starved them by the millions (kept food for the party, and then sold what was left to the west letting them starve by the millions).

    I would suggest reading: Not Yours To Give by Colonel Davy Crockett
    http://www.fee.org/pdf/books/not%20yours%20to%20give.pdf

    It will show you how far removed we are from our past. it used to be at the house.gov site, but it has been removed. (No I am not a Ron Paul supporter but he did like the piece too, and had it entered into the public trust).

    The problem is that the condition you put on it cant be met. But since you cant prove that it cant be met, it’s the hole in the bottom of the bucket.

    What law commands that the US cant spend more than X percentage of GDP on charities?

    Once you allow the state to do what the state is not allowed to do, how do you stop it?

    What you don’t get, or maybe you do and sometimg lapse, is that the game becomes try anything.

    However the real key to the game is distribution of other peoples wealth NOT helping others!!!! it’s a political system in which the sociopaths all help each other denude everyone of everything.

    In the old system how did cronies trade money? A kick back here and kick back there, right? Ok… what was the limit on the kickbacks? Could they say kick back 5 billion dollars to external people in masse? How about 840 billion?

    Ah… the purpose of socialism in the state is to create a greased slide for large bribes, control and payments to be shuttled to friends and subversives and you don’t have to do it under the table.

    Under socialism, Obama has managed to convince the others who are part of the global elite to vote away 840 billion of our labor and hand it out to communists, socialists, radicals, islam, etc..

    Could you do that in the old system?

    So there is no way to be a little bit socialist as there is no way to be a little bit pregnant.

    The reason is that one has to abandon pure values and principals to accept that a social bad can be used to manufacture goodness… so in this way, one cant turn a pure cucumber, into a bit of a pickle and remain mostly a cucumber. Once started it progresses to its ends till over or there is some reaction and the house is cleaned.

    So it’s like saying if we could only have a little mild form of typhoid, then everything will be ok.

    As to other things… I was not as ‘lucky’ as you sir. I am 4F. handicapped by deafness. Which is why I could have been institutionalized as that was the new way to go. (ergo the video I posted CAN as to team hoyt. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flRvsO8m_KI socialism destroys things like this)

    I am also a white male.. so after achieving bronx science, there was no money or anything for me to go forward with. Bronx Science has more nobel laureates than any other singular place!!! however this past year was the first year they had no one win a final in Westinghouse and other competitions. Why?

    Because diversity is the order of the day. And so in a bizarre form of the car wash blues, they told me they had enough of me, and my kind, and I had nothing. my family believed all the education bullshit, so we didn’t have money for my schooling. (though they did find it for my sister).

    Today I was reading how they need engineers and what kind of propaganda awould work best in convincing kids to become them. and I laughed. As the word diversity was included, and so knew that the code was really saying… how can we get everyone interested then select those of the right persuasion and damage the rest solving the social justice problem.

    Go ahead… check out the 8A program at the small business admin…lots of free and good stuff if you’re a minority or a woman… it was depressing to attend their classes and have to figure out embarrassingly that nothing was their for you. I saw immigrants from russia, and even from Africa, but because they were male and light skinned, there was nothing there for them.

    Sorry I digressed.

    Today I engineer for a hospital, do celebrity/fashion photography, and on my own time create new products. But the last thing is my dream. I have new medical devices, and right now have teemed up with a top geneticist as to some equipment that can search through string data in clock time not exponential time.

    But cant get anywhere with them. the reason is that the whole system has been slowly changed to inhibit my participation and the participation of those of merit.

    Which is why I laughed as to the engineers. In the 1950s we loved the astronauts, and the scientists, and so forth… and lots became engineers. And then we pissed onthem.

    We told them that they are evil as their inventions cause social injustice the second they conceive of them. we took away the scolarships of the men who watned to be it, and gave them to women (who admitted at Harvard that they did it to meet men and marry and so wasting the scholarships!).

    They destroyed my family (as I have no rights any more. a judge told me fathers don’t). bankrupted me. forbid me access to programs and others could get their work done.. they gutted scholarships… and they gutted sports… and they are continuing to gut it all…

    There is just so much that I can point out and show…

    But at the core, none of the ideological bull crud would have worked if it couldn’t have been financed by huge amounts of largesse! And you cant move huge amounts of largess and disburse that in a merit system with no state charity.

    In the past it was hard to do this… now all you have to do is start a not for profit, and your friends will steer millions of dollars to your name… heck the lesbian leader in ny created many fronts to park money with socialist sounding names, except that the newspaper forgot to call them fronts. 20 agencies with names fitting the socialist codes, that they then had no problem parking millions into. And others in wich friends and family7 were running them.

    My family fled Europe from the same thing we are creating here. right now, my wife and I, are trying to do business and things that move us out of this sphere, and gives us mobility. That way when things get locked down as they will soon, we are not locked down as we are useful to the change.

    This is how each branch of my family survived and ended up marrying. My grandparents from moms side from wwi and just before wwii… my dads as refugees from Latvia in between occupations fled… and my wifes family, who lived under mao, and later under Suharto.

    Yeah… the wind is blowing and something stinky is riding on it.
    something I thought I would never feel or worry about.

  35. Artfldgr Says:

    for those that really want to be inspired…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4B-r8KJhlE&feature=related

    i was raised the same way… i remember that our block was a lot of fun. i was teh half deaf kid.. and there was a girl that was a mute… i translated for her… and another who was in splints…

    everyone got to play… and there was winnners and losers…

    the scene in this video where they are playing hockey.

    thats what the world was like before socialism and feminism… etc..

    i watched the kids change….

    however the key here is that unlike the left of today, they didnt think that it was the hand they were dealt, they realized it was how you play the hand that makes winners. to quote a corny song, every hands a winner, and every hand is a loser…

    the propaganda is heavy for the same horrors of wwii… but against all of the west..

    salton sea, million dollar baby, etc..

    said that the hoyts should have had a full life if they warehoused the kid… that society would be better off if the infirm would not be here.

    personally, steven hawking might protest.

    i know i would.

    no one knows i am handicapped.. i took speech classes, and i manipulate situations to put me in place much as the illiterate manipulate to hide their illiteracy.

    its stressful… i dont have any degrees… i am self taught… and they think i ahve them. the doctors have been great hiding it because they love my competency. but it means that i have no security and am easy to get rid of.

    welcoem to the new world.

    i am learning that i wasted my life trying to make the world better and trying to make products for a better world

    its sad..

    so the hoyts make me feel better… that my parents were right…

    as the lyrics said.

    i can only imagine… :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDnrLv6z-mM&feature=related

    too bad fathers like hoyt and me are no longer needed or wanted…

    living shadows wating to pass.

  36. Artfldgr Says:

    the ironman dvd..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDnrLv6z-mM&feature=related

    never give up!

  37. gcotharn Says:

    Artfldgr,

    I enjoy your comments.

    When I feel pain, I am sometimes inspired by Winged Victory of Samothrace, the greatest ever depiction of the infusion of eternal spark into humanity.

  38. John Spragge Says:

    OK, strictly on substance… you have quite probably the world’s most oil-dependent economy; certainly no net oil importer depends on the stuff as much as the United States does, at a time when wholesale prices for oil have doubles and retail gas prices have tripled. In these circumstances, the degree of inequality in your economy constitutes a real vulnerability, precisely because the poor and lower middle class can find themselves knocked right out of the social order.

    You have a government that has lived on debt for the past eight years, and a country that has taken in more than it has sold to others for most of the past three decades.

    On top of all that, you have the largest generation in your history coming up on retirement, starting in the second year of the new president’s term.

    One candidate promises open ended commitment to a military adventure that has led (according to the best information we have) to an on-going refugee crisis, the possible nuclear arming of a country that everyone agrees remains dangerously at odds with yours, and an expenditure of about $600,000,000 per year. On the economic front, the same candidate offers a continuation of tax policies that favour the wealthiest of the wealthy.

    On the other hand, we have a candidate that offers to reduce the emphasis on military solutions in favour of negotiations (keep in mind that every billion you borrow to finance your wars adds to the power of the hard men of the Chinese politboro who hold your notes). You have a candidate who promises to make his tax policy favour the poor and lower middle class, to keep people from falling out of the social order.

    If we look at the fundamentals, from debt to inequality to oil-dependence, whose proposals make the most sense? Even more, when you look at the substance of the messages which makes the most sense for a country facing the possibility of some really painful adjustments? Under the circumstances, I would say the “yes we can” message of a more just and equitable social order amounts to a substantive position of great value.

  39. Artfldgr Says:

    love the nike… i always wondered what her face was like given what is left of her.

    hows your feeling on carytid… its often how i feel… thoughi love heinliens reference to it in one of his books.

    thanks gcotharn!!

    hey john… why then didnt they let us build 100 nuclear reactors. cleanest energy possible…
    [and we are a space faring peoples, so we dont need to store it on land for thousands of years, by end of century, if socilsits dont have their way, we will have garbage skows to the sun. though the earth will be pretty cold, have you counted the sun spots lately?]

    things are looking good in iraq…ergo no more news coverage… in fact news coverage is down by an extreme amount…

    note that they just anounced a 30 year period of cooling by better data than hansens models. (note that hanson used to push global cooling to a new ice age, and the culprit was oil and coal… then when things kept getting hotter, he postulates that coal and oil are to blame for that. meanwhile, the suns variations and our orbital path and wobble shows the source to be solar. by the way, last time we had no sunspots like now, it got real bad cold… and sunspots are a solid predictor of weather…(so says REAL climitologists, which hansen is not!)

    hows this for an answer thats better than yours..

    you open up the coasts to drilling, that way we can get oil that china and cuba are taking since they can drill closer than we can to our own lands.

    then we open up the very small area (not even one square kilometer but musch smaller) to drill for oil in anwr…

    and the biggest would be to open up the bakken oil fields in montana and get that out. its more oil than the saudis biggest fields.

    we remove the laws restricting and keeping new more efficient refineries…

    we build 100 more nuclear reactors… with excess heat used to make fuels from biological materials and the primary energy to stop us from burning coal.

    we help the chinese so that they can stop building new coal plants that burn sulfer coal

    we put out an X prize for new battery technology. hydrogen will not work well. unless nuclear is making the hydrogen, then its not cost efficient. with great battery technology we can plug in at night, and get a weeks worth of charge while we sleep. we can charge while parked…

    allow more wealthy people to fund space science by taking tourist trips. this will build an industry that eventually will be able to do a lot of things that are not so good here. (like noxious chemicals in manufacturing, and energy from the sun, and so on).

    oh… and dont forget to follow kenyas top economists advice and leave the africans alone and let them build an economy (their farmers cant compete with free food, nor can factories make clothing that can compete with free charity).

    we finish the war effort.. and we close the shipment door for weapons through serbia, and the sea, and iran, to the middle east and africa so that they arent constantly destabalized so as to inflate the price of russias natural resources for the siloviki.

    we start cleaning house. we stop most of the state socialism. the largess to large companies… and so forth.

    without socialism, there is no way to transfer huge amounts of tas dollars to freinds, family and poltical causes the peopel dont support.

    in the cronie days you could maybe add money to a highway project… today your freind can start a not for profit, and the socialist can dump 20 million into it and so on.. heck its possible to give a single cause more than a billion dollars this way. heck obama has worked for a tax that would give 840 billion away to freinds in high places.

    none of it possible without soicalism.

    so… i think most of that above is better…

    but then again, i want everyone to live well, and i dont care if i get power.

  40. John Spragge Says:

    Artfldgr:

    hey john… why then didnt they let us build 100 nuclear reactors. cleanest energy possible…

    First, “they” might not let you build 100 reactors because 100 reactors will probably set you back about 20% of a year’s GDP for the United States. And by the way, fission power doesn’t qualify as very clean if you live near a uranium mine. An increasing proportion of the world’s people will not have uranium mined anywhere in their vicinity, which means that unless you can turn up a uranium deposit in Antarctica, you may find your 100 reactors without fuel.

    And you haven’t connected this with anything I have written.

    The press hasn’t covered the story of the refugees who haven’t gone home. Unless you pay careful attention, you may not notice the status of forces agreement the Iraqi government hasn’t signed. However, even the press has not ignored the Iranian nuclear program, the persistent instability in Iraq, the virtual collapse of civil society, the internal fighting, or the conflict between the central government and the Kurds over (projected) oil revenue sharing.

    note that they just anounced a 30 year period of cooling by better data than hansens models.

    I claim no status as a climate scientist; I have no idea which “they” you refer to, and you haven’t remotely connected climate science to anything I have said.

    Whatever happens to the Earth’s climate, millions of boomers will start to retire in 2010. The Chinese will continue hold an iron grip on close to a trillion in US currency reserves. Unless something changes, the US trade deficit will continue to pile up debt. Your existing infrastructure will continue to require huge amounts of fossil fuels, and the conventionally recoverable stocks of oil will continue to dwindle.

    hows this for an answer thats better than yours..

    Irrelevant, since I never claimed to have an “answer”, and the only one of your comment to offer anything like a rebuttal (never mind a solution) to the problems I have pointed out dealt with Iraq, and the actual signs coming out of Iraq, and Western Asia as a whole, seem to me to warrant a lot less optimism than you have shown. You’ve said nothing about the eight year government deficit, the twenty-eight year trade deficit, the crumbling infrastructure, the enormous burden for long term care the Iraq war has created, the fragility of a deeply unequal economy, or the increased competition for fixed (and declining) stocks of oil.

  41. J. Peden Says:

    I would say the “yes we can” message of a more just and equitable social order amounts to a substantive position of great value.

    I would say, John, that you should probably get hold of some antidepressants instead. That, and also review realistically the well-established failures of Communism, especially in comparison to the undeniable success of American Democratic Capitalism.

    A mental state characterized by disasterizing, coupled with dreams of Utopia indicates to me a condition of severe personal dis-ease.

    Or, as Curtis Mayfield suggested:

    Why don’t you check out your mind
    Been with you all the time

  42. Banned Liberal Says:

    Obama. Obama. Obama.

    There might just be some plausible reasons to vote for John McCain, but you hardly hear them here, where its all Obama, all the time.

    Gotta love that if you like Obama.

  43. J. Peden Says:

    There might just be some plausible reasons to vote for John McCain, but you hardly hear them here, where its all Obama, all the time.

    Gotta love that if you like Obama.

    Right, B.L., reasons as to why Obama might be one of the worst Major Party candidates in U.S. history – thus in comparison also to McCain – are good news if you like Obama. Good thinking – it’s oso “Progressive”.

  44. gcotharn Says:

    John Spragge,

    I prepared a response to your comment. My hope is that you will see my position as reasoned, even if you see it as incorrect. I judge the response to be a bit long for these comments. If you email me, I will send it to you. I use gcotharn, and yahoo, and if you will figure out the rest, we can defeat the spambots.

  45. John Spragge Says:

    J. Peden:

    Talk about a false dilemma: support the inequitable crony conservatism endemic to the current Republican Party, with all it’s faults and the failings I have enumerated, because Stalinism doesn’t work. Well, the United States worked pretty well under FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and even Johnson. Senator Obama intends to make a few modest reforms, something that hardly makes him a communist.

    Unlike you, I believe that Americans have room for achievement, the achievement of a government that does not loot future generations, an economy that does not run up unsustainable debt, and a robust society not made brittle by a division between the haves and the have-nots.

    By the way, classifying disagreement with your position as a psychiatric symptom indicates, as anyone old enough to remember Leonid Brezhnev knows, a bankrupt and dead end political philosophy.

  46. njcommuter Says:

    And by the way, fission power doesn’t qualify as very clean if you live near a uranium mine. An increasing proportion of the world’s people will not have uranium mined anywhere in their vicinity, which means that unless you can turn up a uranium deposit in Antarctica, you may find your 100 reactors without fuel.

    First, uranium is neither the only nor the most abundant suitable fission fuel. Thorium is, and India is exploring reactors suitable for thorium.

    Second, our once-through fuel policy is both wasteful and dangerous. It uses only about two percent of the energy available from fission while a closed breeder cycle can extract about 99 percent. Not only do you get 50 times less waste, but because you have extracted most of the available energy, the remaining radionuclides are either short-lived (half life of a few decades) or low-level. Within a few hundred years, the radioactivity falls to that of the original, natural uranium ore. This is far safer than the once-through fuel.

    We decided against reprocessing to make it hard for rogue states (and terrorists–consider Thunderball) to get their hands on plutonium. But there are reprocessing methods that never achieve a full separation of plutonium, making the process resistant to theft (though not to terrorism for the purpose of destructive effect).

    The downside is that the best place to do the reprocessing is onsite with the plant. Plants need to be near sources of cooling water, and placing them too far from the customers they serve means losing large amounts of power in transmission. Just about nobody wants a reprocessing plant at Indian Point, Oyster Creek, or Diablo Canyon. Rivers and coasts are where the population concentrates.

    Decisions, decisions ….

  47. Vince P Says:

    Obama is the only compelling reason to vote for McCain, IMHO.

  48. Ron White Says:

    I am trying to keep hope for this country, but when I read many of the comments here it makes me wonder!

    Where is the substance in McCain ?? What in his actions or history makes one think He can make good decisions
    and lead this country.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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