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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for February, 2012

A Chaotic Century

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Okay. I’ve had it and am about to explode. The United States, and indeed the world, is slowly but surely sliding into chaos. In the United States, we have a president and a party that are transforming the country into a postmodern social democratic nation with the majority of the population on government doles. This will destroy the country, as I knew it, where freedom and opportunity were paramount. Thus, with this great threat hanging over our heads, the opposition, the Republican Party, is trying to find a candidate to lead an election in November aimed at throwing out the president and his party. So, what are the Republicans doing? The choices for president are four individuals far from the brightest stars in the political firmament. And to worsen the situation, all they seem capable of doing is destroying each other with unbelievable calumny while the Democrat president smiles and his party applauds as these Republicans proceed to hand the election to these malevolent incumbents.

While this is happening, the Middle East sizzles on the brink of war, possibly nuclear, between Israel and Iran, the latter threatening to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth with new nuclear weapons which our president refused to prevent the Iranians from developing.

Meanwhile, the European Union and the euro are about to implode leading the world into a financial debacle. No leadership. No solutions to a poorly thought out concept of a currency union without a political union. And these nations are seriously threatened from within as well, by their growing Muslim populations that have immigrated from the Middle East and who threaten the political stability of Europe’s governments and the very fabric of a thousand years of European culture and religion.
And the population of the world continues to grow, now exceeding 6 billion. There’s not enough food to keep up with this growth, and starvation beckons, while the uncompromising, muddle-headed environmentalists interfere with the use of genetically altered foods that could help to prevent this kind of catastrophe.

But worry not, there’s lots more chaos lurking in the “pest holes” (better known as governments, board rooms, political parties, militias, terrorist cells, and other human agencies) waiting to spring out to further plague mankind.

Yes, the 21st century is promising to be a disaster!

Vague Thinking=Vague Writing

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

The following essay appeared in the Collections•Culture Section of the Sunday edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer on February 26, 2012. The author, David Woods, is a Philadelphia writer

Vague Thinking = Vague Writing
The importance of language slipping in today’s culture.

When the body of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is brought before the Romans, does the bard have them say, “Who dunnit?” No, he has Mark Antony deliver the eloquent “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” speech.

And the Roman poet Horace showed his lyrical skill with: “Pick today’s fruits, not relying on the future in the slightest.” Carpe Diem. He did not, you will note, say, “Have a nice day.”
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In both cases, the writers knew a simple truth: that language matters. It’s something that seems lost in today’s culture.

Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind, thinks part of the problem is that students have lost the practice of reading; they want to be thought “authentic,” and that means having few cultural pretensions. Thus, they refuse to make what they see as “hypocritical ritual bows to high culture.”

Bloom blames their attitude in part on schools that have failed to persuade students to read – let alone to like it. And this leads not only to loss of precision and color in language, but also to a defensive posture that language doesn’t matter.

Imprecise language occurs when people don’t think first about exactly what it is they want to say. Either that, or they are attempting to paper over their lack of vocabulary by such excrescences as the prevalent and ubiquitous “like” – as in, “I’m not – like – into reading.”

The vocabulary-challenged are not the only ones who can be imprecise. Scientists often sprinkle their language with jargon in trying to show that they’re doing something important. And politicians – who should be masters of oratory – contribute to the decline of eloquence as well.

But problems abound. Think about “going forward,” for example, a greatly overused phrase that should surely be stopped in its tracks. Or “at the end of the day,” which might usefully be dispatched well before dusk. I heard another linguistic villain – “if you will” – from a speaker at least 10 times at a recent conference, leaving me decidedly intestate.

George Orwell, whose prose was eloquently clear and direct, believed that the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. He suggested that much political language consists of euphemism and hedging. He gives a wonderful example of the decline of eloquence, starting by quoting the well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

“I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise nor riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

He translates this into modern English:

“Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.”
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Why this decline in eloquence? In part, it’s the failure of schools to teach reading and language skills; it’s also the lowest-common-denominator language of television and, increasingly, of newspapers. It might also have to do with notions of egalitarianism: to speak with clarity and verve is somehow seen as elitist or effete.

Part of the solution might be a renewed respect for graceful speech and writing. This will be attained by proper and early teaching, and wide and eclectic reading. It might also help to ridicule or satirize the sloppy language that is the product of sloppy thinking and that makes for mighty dull listening.

“Talking and eloquence are not the same,” said Ben Jonson. “To speak and speak well are two things.”

Eloquently said.

Comments on David Woods essay can also be made at:  hmi3000@comcast.net

What We Don’t Want To Hear Anymore

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Here’s a wonderful carefully structured articles about the present health of the American economic and sociopolitical systems. A must read written by one of the top political and historical writers in the U.S.A.

January 31, 2012
What We Do Not Want to Hear Anymore
by Victor Davis Hanson
Pajamas Media


The State of the Union could have been written [1] by a computer program. All the now familiar Obama furniture was in the room: the mock outrage at “them,” the psychodramatic first-person boasting (as in, “I will oppose..,” “I will not work with…,” “I will decline…,” “I will not stand by …,” I will not cede…,” “I will not walk away…,” “I will not back down…,” “I will not go back…”); the now customary rear-view-mirror jab at his fading predecessor; the monotonous promising that something is so bad that we must have a new program for it (each year the same threat, the same solution, the same failure); and the silence about the Obama legacy of stimulus, debt, and ObamaCare.

But the people are tired and simply by now shut their ears [2]. Here are five things in the current age that exhaust us.

Go Pay For It Yourself!

What is it about debt that Mr. Obama does not get [3]? Please spare us any new programs or initiatives. We owe now $16 trillion. America is borrowing at the rate of $3 billion-plus a day. So please, Mr. President, no more Solyndras. We did not want or need Cash for Clunkers. There is no money for more expansions of food stamps [4]. Nothing is left for student loan reprieves, high-speed rail, or anything else. To propose any new expenditure would first require some honest disclosure, like the following: “I wish to borrow $10 billion at 3% interest to lower student loan debt and I propose to pay for it by selling off 1000 new oil leases.”

The problem with these Obama initiatives is not just that we do not have the money and must borrow to pay for them, but that we feel most of them only make things worse, whether by subsidizing another mortgage for someone who is by market standards not likely to meet the loan payments and would be better off renting, or by paying some insider crony to make and sell solar panels at a loss. Again, chill on the new programs, and just start paying off what you already borrowed. Outside government, psychiatrists often treat with mind-altering medicines the unstable who compulsively charge things that they cannot pay for and do not need.

Enough Bogeymen, Already

What is it about George Bush that obsesses Obama? It is now January 2012, 40 months after the September 2008 meltdown. So let us finally quit scapegoating “they” (“In the six months before I held office…”; “In 2008…”) who did such terrible things to poor us. Instead, accept the truth about both culpability and responsibility.

Wall Street crooks were only one third of the equation. Another third were equally dishonest and greedy insiders at Freddie and Fannie, such as Clinton hacks like Franklin Raines, Jamie Gorelick, or James A. Johnson, who made millions for themselves without much banking expertise, and were egged on by congressionals like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd [5]. who hid their own conflicts of interest with high talk about helping the poor. That the three chiefs of staffs in the Obama White House were all Wall Streeters who made millions, in part from the housing bubble, is proof enough of the revolving-door, get-rich schemes. (I don’t remember any particular banking skills that Rahm Emanuel ever displayed that would result in $16 million in profits from two years on Wall Street. Apparently he was a fat cat, a millionaire, and one who did not know that at some point that he already had made enough money.)

The other third party, of course, was “we.” We were not forced to buy homes by “them.” Some of us were greedy and wanted to keep flipping real estate and got caught when the music stopped. Some were stupid and leveraged their homes to pay down credit card debt and write off the interest — or take on even more consumer debt. Some were always better off in an apartment or rental. True, some just bought at the wrong time; but that’s called “bad luck” and not quite the result of a mustached black hat forcing an innocent widow at gunpoint to sign on the dotted line. What are we to think when the president thunders, “We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them”? What does “we learned” mean? Did we ever not know? And what does his passive-voice “had been sold” mean? Are we to learn now that it does not mean “bought”? Americans did not “buy” houses, but were pried out of their beds to have too costly homes “sold” to them?

We accept that the president inherited a rocky situation, but accept even more that he sought to never “let a crisis go to waste”; rammed down ObamaCare, more regulations, and more stimulus; borrowed $5 trillion in three years; demonized the job-hiring classes; and so turned what would have been a natural recovery into 36 months of stagnation.

So we are tired of hearing about all the bad people who do all the bad things to us. Life is not a zero-sum peasant world, where someone’s extra olive tree must be considered someone else’s lost olive tree. We don’t care whether someone makes over the dreaded $200,000, only whether there are still such employers around to hire at good wages. A final polite suggestion: every time the president goes after “them,” can he please explain how much a Jon Corzine, Bill Daley, Rahm Emanuel, John Kerry, George Soros, Elizabeth Warren — or Michelle Obama — made, and how exactly they made it?

Please, No More Green Initiatives

If incandescent light bulbs are really toxic, unreliable, and expensive, then the public will start buying the cheaper, greener, and more economical fluorescent alternative. When the technology is mastered and solar panels are a bargain, they will sell. When gas hits $5 a gallon, we will want more Priuses. Mr. Chu, please no more sermons [6] on California agriculture ($17 billion in exports this year) blowing away. We don’t object to government incentives or tax credits, but please no more subsidized green plants, no more government laws outlawing good products, no more federal buying of perfectly good cars to crush.

Green is now synonymous with hucksterism [7], whether the Al Gore “cry wolf” corporatism, or the academic grandee snagging grants (while worried in email over the con), or the campaign bundler suddenly wanting government cash for some sort of Mr. Chu’s Pet Rock-like solar panel plant. Mr. President, almost everything you said in your State of the Union address about energy was misleading. Gas has risen over 80% since you took office. The only reason that it has not gone even higher is that your economic policies ensured slow growth (1.7%) and thus curbed fuel demand. Meanwhile, some brilliant entrepreneurs discovered how to frack and horizontally drill on mostly private land; so oil and gas production went up despite radical curtailment of federal oil and gas leases by 40%. How strange: after going after the gas and oil industry for three years, the president still could not, as promised, get electricity prices to “skyrocket” or gas to reach “European levels,” and so takes credit for those who resisted his own agenda.

No “Conversation” on Race

Eric Holder once called us collective cowards for not wishing another conversation on race on his terms — a request echoed now about every week by the Black Caucus or some op-ed writer as the campaign heats up. Sadly, we know where these conversations lead and the parameters in which they must be conducted. If in doubt, ask a liberal like Bill Cosby or Juan Williams the wages of trying to transcend the cult of victimization and redress.

In our mixed-up, intermarried, and multiracial society, we really do not know who is quite so-called white anymore, and who is not — and increasingly don’t care, despite the race industry’s efforts to use 1/16-like rules to prove authenticity.

No one quite knows why a dark-skinned Pakistani-American does not qualify for preferences, and a light-skinned Brazilian American with a trilled last name sort of can. No one quite knows why the descendants of those who were interned in camps, or of those blown up while working for the 19th-century railroad, often outscore the majority on math tests and therefore must have an unspoken quota placed on their numbers admitted into universities, while those who recently immigrated from the Caribbean on average perhaps do not outscore the majority, and therefore must receive federal preferences as if their ancestors were discriminated against. But one does know quite well that any discussion that touches on higher per capita rates of illegitimacy, single-parent households, drug use, state dependency, or criminality must not go beyond the parameters of either racial bias or the legacy of past prejudice. Taboo is any reference to cultural attitudes or practices. Self-, rather than government-, help is a profanity.

So we know where these state subsidized “conversations” of Mr. Holder go and we’d rather pass on the charade. Again, the government can continue its racial surveys, racial symposia, and racial obsessions, but most just opt out of all that. To paraphrase Michelle Obama, the answer is not that we are stereotypical “angry white guys,” just that we are tired of the same old communiqués and finger-pointing from the Ministry of Information faces on the big screen. You see, some may still nod, but no one believes any more.

No Need to Cite the Past

When we hear historical references, we expect that they are wrong. The president again mentioned his grandfather the other night; but the last time he did he improperly claimed that he had helped to liberate Auschwitz. When he talked about Islam in Cairo, he made up most of his facts. In the State of the Union, references to the wonderful postwar age were misleading. He implies that high taxes and big government after 1945 made America work. But big government and redistributive taxing and spending were started in earnest during the 1930s and did not work. Even World War II did not make them work in a sustainable fashion, but rather the effects of World War II did when real wealth creation paid down the debts. The reason? Largely because there was no industry in Japan, Germany, China, South Korea, or Western Europe in 1946.

The result was that Americans paid off much of their debts because for 15 years they supplied the world with everything from refrigerators to soft drinks to tractors. When the global economy rebounded by the 1960s, the game of high union wages, ever more regulations, and sustainable Great Society deficit spending was going to be over. “Made in Japan” no longer meant “junk” but high quality cars, cameras, and lawn mowers. Barack Obama and Michael Moore may think that a wily CEO stole all GM’s money and shut down the plants in the 1970s out of union-hating greed. In fact, all that happened was the world grew up, copied and improved on American business, and then sometimes tore it apart through cutthroat competition at producing a better product at a cheaper price, something impossible earlier when Mao was killing people with eyeglasses, Hiroshima was still cinders, Frankfurt was in rubble, and Seoul had been leveled three times.

In the End, It’s About What We Always Expected

Human nature and the laws of physics, not technocratic liberalism, are still the best guides to the madness around us. Money borrowed has to be paid back or the debt eaten by someone, period. Poverty is defined by a want of material necessities, not by lacking the appurtenances that someone else better off enjoys. Gas and oil are miracle fuels and it is very hard to find alternate energies at comparable costs and reliability. And as a rule, the green class of environmental elites usually uses more fossil fuels per capita than do the muscular classes who mine and drill them out of the ground — and who do not jet, drive, or live in the comparable fashion of their critics. The content of our character alone matters; those who are not so confident in their own, usually demand that their tribal affiliations be essential and not incidental to their personas. Most accept that culture, not race matters, but it matters still more not to say that. Most of the political class has no interest in history; dogma is their creed. They assume that everyone (far less noble than themselves) in the past would have agreed with them, or now can be post facto made to agree with them.

URLs in this post:
[1] could have been written: http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/2012/01/24/quote-of-the-day-215/
[2] shut their ears: http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/136167/
[3] that Mr. Obama does not get: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/289543/state-our-union-broke-mark-steyn
[4] expansions of food stamps: http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2012/01/shameless-obama-says-bush-is-foodstamp-president-not-me/
[5] Chris Dodd: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123681364667801647.html
[6] please no more sermons: http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Bright-Green/2009/0205/energy-secretary-climate-change-could-wipe-out-calif-farming
[7] synonymous with hucksterism: http://ricochet.com/main-feed/Barack-Obama-is-a-Terrible-Fund-Manager-and-a-Rotten-Tech-VC

©2012 Victor Davis Hanson

William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved