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December 22, 2005

Caribou best Conservatives!
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Heather's polling comments demonstrate that the public is figuring out that they've been snookered. Although Bush's personal approval gained some ground back, Americans remain dubious about the war.  I wager that his higher personal raings will prove temporary and soon rejoin the Iraq numbers.

A Lakoff  inspired reflection: The interesting part about GW's poll numbers is how well the conservatives  control their narrative.  The victory language combined with Bush's personal appeal is a tonic for his political base.  Yet conservatives-like any good storytellers--depend on messenger credibility for staying power.  President Bush explicitly depends on his believability as a messenger who reflects strong and decisive leadership.  The public has let him slide on other flaws because this one perception is decisive.  This perception was damaged by Katrina and is being inexorably eroded by Iraq.  Even several speeches in a week won't reverse the nagging sense among Americans that we've been had.

The Republican party is developing interesting fissures...Now, it appears that not even
accusations of being "soft" on defense can keep the party in line.  Here is an Intriguing list of Republicans who voted against the Defense Appropriations conference agreement, something not done lightly.  This year 16 Republicans voted against it, undoubtedly related to the addition of the provision to drill in the Arctic Refuge.  The final vote was 308 yeas, 106 nays and 2
voting present.  Last year the conference report passed 410 to 12.

Republicans voting no in 2005:

Johnson (CT)
Johnson (IL)
Paul (he always votes against it, as he does against most spending bills)
Smith (NJ)

This is a sure sign of nervousness.


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As much as I enjoyed Lakoff’s “What Mathematics is,” he needs to re-read Emberto Eco’s “Kant and the Platypus” (my favorite book on semiotics next to de Saussure’s). In Natural languages, there is a reflexive relationship between “language” or the sign, and the “narrative” or the signified; that is, the meaning can affect the language and the other way around. This is not true for formal languages like mathematics where meaning and syntax are provably equivalent. Lakoff’s error is assuming that what is true of formal languages, like mathematics, is also true of informal languages like English.

But reading Ms. Kelly’s post has brought a valuable insight: liberal rhetoric has the same structure as religious apologetics.

Being an atheist, I have often had occasion to spar with apologists, especially Roman Catholic apologists. I knew their approach to reasoning about religion was flawed, but I didn’t have the linguistic apparatus to explain it — until I had read Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empiricism.”

Quine points out two important points: (1) a theory is never tested in isolation, but rather the whole of the “web of belief” is tested because of the transitivity of implication; (2) we can always make any particular theory come out true by modifying the truth values of subordinate propositions.

For a theory to considered true in the absolute sense, we expect that there exists a theory such that for every interpretation of the subordinate propositions the theory is true. In formal axiomatic systems, we call such theories “theorems” and in informal languages we call them “commonplaces.” Sometimes these commonplaces are established empirically, but still we expect that under the specified conditions the commonplace will generally obtain.

The apologists fallacy is exceedingly, almost exquisitely, subtle: he switches the logical quantifiers. Instead of a there-exists-for-all, the apologist presents us with a for-all-there-exists. The apologist claims that for any theory, there exists an interpretation of the subordinate propositions such that the theory is true. Using this technique, the apologist can justify any number of contradictory propositions by finding an interpretation that works for one proposition and another interpretation that works for the other. He then fallaciously concludes that both propositions are justified.

Liberal rhetoric is identical in structure. In fact, Lakoff’s advice is precisely to adopt this fallacious approach to rhetoric.

Admittedly it is a difficult fallacy to expose, but people have an instinctive skepticism, even revulsion, towards the apologetic approach to rhetoric. I don’t think this rhetorical subterfuge will work for liberals in the long run.

Besides, there have always been Republican environmentalists. The “interesting fissures” are nothing new, and the Republican Party has a long experience accommodating them.

...i'm in a particularly christmasy frame of mind, so let me get right to it:

Mr. Younger - i'm still queasy at your over-the-top attempt at eruditeness - for pity's sake, stop.

you are also wrong: mid-terms are coming up and skilled survivalists are making strategic moves to distance themselves from a waning (soon to be lame duck) president.

in addition, some congressmen -on both sides of the aisle- occasionally vote their conscious.

back to the egg nog. cheers.

Doc, yeah, yeah, yeah. If you libs can handle the intellectual pretense of Al Gore, you can take it when Democracy Arsenal authors stumble into my area of expertise.

By the way, don’t you mean conscience, not conscious? Kindly cease your pretense of commonness, everyone knows liberals are the intellectual elite. ;-)

When I wrote "Besides, there have always been Republican environmentalists. The “interesting fissures” are nothing new, and the Republican Party has a long experience accommodating them," I meant just "in addition, some congressmen -on both sides of the aisle- occasionally vote their conscious." The Republican Party is a Big Tent; we're used to it. Dems like to call Republican Party compromises "fissures." Heh.

Enjoy the nog.


The answer is so obvious:

Caribou are cuter-looking than Ted Stevens.

Naturally, the caribou win.

(It's 2 days til Christmas. I'm being silly. Happy Holidays everybody!)

Jeff Younger -
...crap. i didn't just think that, i wrote that? (memo to self: got to start getting the bourbon to nog ration closer to 50-50...)

doubt i was fully conscious at the time, so don't take my rant personally - it was more generally directed at any right-leaning, conscienceless apologist, FOX News included: you just happened to be using words i didn't understand at the time...

John Penta -
...caribou are cuter than any republicans or their pacs, er, wives...

happy ho ho to all

Doc, heh! No worries. I am right leaning, but I'm not conscienceless. If I use a logical 'and' between those adjectives, I can just escape being included in rant. ;-)

I feel sorry for the poor caribou, they love the Alaskan oil pipeline and already coexist nicely with oil production facilities at Prudhoe Bay. Think of the caribou children. Don't you care about the children? ;-)

Merry Christmas, if you're a believer.

Jeff Younger -

....persistent bugger, aren't you?

okay - truce until the new year and the fallout from the HUGE upcoming bribery scandal sinks all of the administration's plans for anything into the abyss...

p.s. - how could you possibly prefer Eco to Calvino?

;' )

Hey doc, I love Italo Calvino's writing, but I don't think he's written anything on semiotics. It's very good to encounter a literate poster for a change.

I'm scared of the bribery stuff. You got me on that one.


Can we please lose the hyperbole? "Indefensible" is just a tad over the top. It might not be legal but I'm certain many are going to put forth arguements in favor. If it was really "indefensible" nobody would bother to explain why since it would be readily apparent.

I certainly agree the President and his adminstration appear to have broken the law; however, the notion that just because the congress passes a law that it always curtails the executive is completely absurd. There are a myriad of areas where the congress may not restrict the executive.

Not to argue the point one way or the other but if the President's power to wiretap overseas phone calls stems from his war making power as commander in chief than his actions are not only legal but the congress would have to be extremely carefull in attempting to formulate a law that restricts such power.

Not for nothing but the English speaking world (US, UK, Canada, Aus, and NZ) have had a program that goes back years, often termed Echelon, that listen to every single electronic communication on earth. By the laws of the United States it is perfectly legal for the US to wiretap every conversation on planet earth except for those within the US. Does anyone want to hazard a guess if it's legal for the other 4 nations in the program to sift through US communication?

For decades the NSA has had a far larger budget than the CIA and has been the more secretive intelligence service. What does everyone think they've been doing on our behalf all these years?

As I've said the Administration appears to have broken the law but one can almost hear Louie saying he's shocked to hear that gambling is going on here. In any case a little less hyperbole is called for...

Lane Brody

This is not particularly a muddy issue.

"What the President and the NSA are doing is blatantly illegal in the opinion of practically every legal scholar knowledgeable about the original meaning of our Constitution, and indeed in the opinion of most legal scholars of any philosophical stripe outside of the Justice Department."

This question is not in doubt among honest people who have looked at it.

J Thomas you are incorrect. There are many legal scholars pointing out the 4th amendment exception for border searches. There is also very recent Supreme Court rulings that state broad non-specific searches are legal. Sifting through thousands and/or millions of communications by means of computer software certainly fits this definition which I believe was made originally for drug or bomb sniffing dogs.

Moreover, if the power to direct wiretaps on overseas communications stems from the President's constitutional power as commander in chief than congressional laws restricting such power are not legal.

I stated it appeared the law has been broken. I simply asked the hyperbole to stop. Your view that almost every legal scholar supports your view is hyperbole. Perhaps it's most you have chosen to listen to...

Lane Brody

Lane Brody, let's give it a few years and look back to decide how many honest legal scholars disagreed.

While there do appear to be a small minority of wingnut legal scholars, still let's wait and see.

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Sometimes these commonplaces are established empirically, but still we expect that under the specified conditions the commonplace will generally obtain.

100m water resistance, though, which is a good tradeoff and a strong point in their favor



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