Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Western Uncertainty -What Does the Qur'an Say: Dhimmi.

The Western Christian Bible is a conglomeration of translations, assumptions, leaps after missing texts, changes in alphabets, worldviews, and as to the Old Testament, a collection of works from the 12th Century BC to the 2d Century BC, with no texts surviving from before 587 BC - with most as transliterated Hebrew, using the Phoenician Alphabet. See ://phoenicia.org/alphabet.html#Bible. Any passage has had many mutations. Look at this Alphabet Tree - ://phoenicia.org/alphabet.html

The Koran, in its original Arabic, however, remains as one text, one source. Changes in interpretation, but no mutation of the words themselves in the scripture. See . This direct Word is re-cast at ://i-cias.com/e.o/koran.htm to include the possibility of variation. For an encyclopedic source on the Middle East, go to ://www.i-cias.com/

Yet, differing interpretations governed history in different areas: look at the tolerance of the Ottomans in the Balkans, the Turkish branch of Islam overwhelming so much territory especially 1400-1875, see ://www.naqshbandi.org/ottomans/maps/default.htm, and making conversions by Christian Orthodox or indigenous people rather simple - see ://www.fsmitha.com/h3/h13zt.htm. Scroll down to the adminstrative practices - in the section particularly about Serbia and Kosovo and the ethnic Albanians. Begin with the paragraph, "According to Serb folklore...." Such a difference from what we are led to believe about other branches of Islam, other eras. Look at the variation.

Thin ice. We are exploring the Qur'an, a new area, trying to get information,. Where to begin the search for a foothold, a mind-hold, a hand outstretched, open palm up. Our intent is to do no harm, read the ice shards. Which way. See earlier discussion at Joy of Equivocating, fact-gathering, dhimmi; and Spain Road Ways, exploring dhimmitude 1492.

1. Fatal flaws of translation. A fodder starting point for any new topic is anywhere you can start.

Here is a start, with index, but before you click at ://i-cias.com/e.o/koran.htm, read the limitations.

The Qur'an itself cannot be translated.

Any putting of the words into another language is addressing only the meaning of the Qur'an, an understanding, but not The Qur'an that can only be read in Arabic. Translation itself changes the original literal word, given letter by letter by Allah to the Prophet. See ://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/.

Only the Qur'an itself - in its original form of Arabic - can be relied upon, and only then by those (I believe this is so) qualified to read it and interpret in case of disagreements, ambiguities, and there must be some. Even a translation of the Qur'an is the translation of an interpretation, continues the background information at ://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/. Whatever we have is by definition flawed.

2. Advantage to the Qur'an theology - finality as to original words. Now, that is a solid starting point for a theology. And this theology closed the door as to sacred words, with the death of the Prophet, leaving only interpretation and implementation of given words to deal with. A full stop. Period. No commas. And the words themselves are not in issue. Advantage as to unity, to that side, as to that issue. Remaining: divisions as to rightful successions, interpretations, but the original words themselves are agreed.

There are several such translations at the USC site, and the reader is to read carefully the introductions provided.

3. Questions as we go:
Deep water.

We are not sure if we can refer to the Prophet as the Prophet Mohammed unless we also add (Peace Be Upon Him), and are checking. Meanwhile, we refer to "the Prophet." But now we see that even that is followed by "Peace be on him." Found this site that suggests there is an ongoing dialogue on when that is needed, see ://www.livingislam.org/k/slw_e.html. Please, expert, help out here because how do we communicate if even our use of words to get ideas across crosses some boundary where we, in our own idea of good faith, are unaware.

4. Back to the USC site, on the Qur'an. Do read as much of this as you can. The index at this site refers to the specific sura sections, and you may well be surprised at the tolerance there, if our media and your neighbors have ranted otherwise - go to sura 109 - ://i-cias.com/e.o/texts/koran/koran109.htm. And the fate of commercial cheaters, at ://i-cias.com/e.o/texts/koran/koran083.htm

Also find:

4.1. A section on Shari'ah law at ://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/law/shariahintroduction.html. "Figh" or fiqh? means the jurisprudence that has evolved in interpreting Shari'ah. All this is our understanding so far, and not to be relied upon. Understandings evolve with more information.

4.2. A section on the Caliphs, the successors to the Prophet. Read this word for word. It lays out the functions and framework for governing within the religious context, that is the entire context, it appears.

4.3 With that: Where does the concept of "dhimmi" come from - is it from the Koran, or a later writing? Tried so far: a search for dhimmi in the Qur'an. Nothing found yet. Perhaps it is in the jurisprudence. Perhaps the word is a later attachment to a complex of laws, words.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Fact-Gathering before Conclusions, Islamic Law, Dhimmi

Fear of fog. Scene. The coffee shop. Islamic law topic.

Sharia law. No-one at the counter in the coffee shop is an expert on Islamic law, no-one has any direct experience with Islamic law and its application to a variety of situations. And the outside 3d party sources of the conclusions being circulated at the coffee shop, that Islam in a negative, even threatening light, appear to have an interest in persuading the regular folks to fear Islamic law. Including our news/ media "reports."

The experts are behind the counter: preparing and serving excellent fare, but the proprietor-customer relationship in the shop itself restricts a robust discussion.

1. Immediate interest: Dhimmi status. Can a legally set, second-tier status, restricting some economic or political or religions privilege (even a lot) as to certain groups within a larger cultural whole, ever serve a legitimate, administrative, functional purpose. Can it be applied to transitional issues, such as immigration in current times- even though in the past there have been huge abuses of the second-tier status: persecutions. Can we separate the abuses of those who implement a theory for their own purposes, from the theory itself. A companion discussion here is at Spain Road Ways, Dhimmitude (Christian and Muslim) .

There is much on the internet about "dhimmi" status, the restricted legal status of the non-Muslim in Muslim areas . There are other categories for kinds of non-Muslims as well, and we are interested specifically in the forms of that dhimmitude in history. And, what does the Koran say, and how is that interpreted in Sharia law, or are they the same. Much to learn here, those as water for another time, to prime another pump, see://www.folkmusic.com/record/r_water.htm#Water (John McCutcheon).

Go here for a good start on a narrative of Muslim law, as those laws are interpreted and enforced in contemporary Egypt. "Public Policy and Islamic Law: The Modern Dhimma in Contemporary Egyptian Family Law," by Maurits Berger of the University of Amsterdam. Go to ://.emubarak.googlepages.com/dhimmiinegypt.pdf. You can also read it in html.

This dhimmiinegypt site focuses on personal status law, the legal angle as well as the religious origin, especially family law (not the full history we were looking for) but it served to give a grounding on Islamic law generally. It is a good idea to get your own framework and a start on information before taking anybody seriously on any topic. Otherwise, it is too hard to discern who is authoritative, who is rant, who is exploring (like here), so do explore on your own. We started gathering ideas as Hello, Fodder - Dhimmi and Immigration Issues.

2. Differences in dhimmitude as a concept.

Dhimmitude can be

a) Status. an objective legal / religious status, prescribed by religion and law, which the coffee shop discusses off and on with some discomfort because the lines drawn appear to be firm, and do not include them or their beliefs;

b) Variable. Affected by the subjective interpretation for range of oppression in implementing it. As in any court, the interpretations will be dependent largely on the judges of the time, and/or the religious-secular lawmakers, and the coffee shop acknowledges the range - we also have extremes in religious interpretation; and

c) Another word for human striving for supremacy. Compared to, as a human matter, the western individual (or universal?) practice of "dhimmi-ing" people, which the coffee shop does for entertainment and camaraderie, in every joke about every target profession, ethnic group, blondes, the trivial to the serious. There is a blocking out of the n word and the b word, however, and jokes about a country's people (how many light bulbs) have morphed into the blonde jokes. Improvement? with

d) Part of history in western government-socio-religio-political dhimmi-ing ( that has to include the individual) and that has enabled the WASP to dominate. Here, the dhimii-ing also fosters restrictions on other people's freedoms, even to death as in civil rights, slavery, lynchings, persecutions, crusades, holocausts. See contemporary skinheads as one example, ://www.prejudiceinstitute.org/skinheadsFS.html; and

e) A root idea with more dangerous branches. Western dhimmi-ing seems to include toxic additive - to shame the target, as in use of the n word, the b word, any word depicting a race, immigrant group, country of origin, gender, religious group. And blondes. Violence by people like skinheads is overt. Other violence, including shaming and humiliation, is masked.

Yet, there is an aspect of humiliation to "classic" dhimmitude as well - that the subdued "feel" subdued - see ://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/

3. What we are finding. It appears that white males have been relatively free throughout history to dhimmi women, Jews, ethnic groups, you name it, but only get upset about dhimmi-ing when someone does it to them. I can dhimmi you, but you better not dhimmi me, etc.

Here is a 17th Century dhimmi apparatus - the Cage of Disgrace, in Levoca, Slovakia, for witch caging, shrewish-uppity women chastisement, humiliation, and Inquisition-related deaths of those who did not conform to the dominant male "Christian" Cult du Jour.

The coffee shop loves to dhimmi lawyers, blondes, and it used to be ethnic groups. Laughs all around. Even those in a target group can make a bundle by dhimmying. Howard Stern dhimmying women, and women falling into line to get on the show? Is that a fair example? Or the woman who is also a member of an irrevocably dhimmied group. If a woman is always less than a man in a society, she gets a double dhimmy by being a woman and being in that group.

4. So keep looking into the concept and the process. For explorers, initial ideas on any topic, including dhimmitude may be off base - this is a new word to us - and to which this Duffy's Law, of eponymous fame, applies: "Most people are wrong about most things most of the time." See http://www.answers.com/topic/list-of-eponymous-laws.

Looking up source sites so we can learn on our own, without relying on others' conclusions. Facts before analysis. Here, statements of law, application.

Source - a repeat: "Public Policy and Islamic Law: The Modern Dhimma in Contemporary Egyptian Family Law," by Maurits Berger of the University of Amsterdam. Go to ://.emubarak.googlepages.com/dhimmiinegypt.pdf.

As you research: See how the basic principles apply in a variety of situations, specifically where there are conflicts between different religious communities, or individuals of different religions and practices. The topic in dhimmiinegypt is not commercial law, but "status" law - family law - divorce, inheritance, marriage, guardianship.

Change over time. The history of interpretations both east and west show there is room for change on both sides in how to coexist, and it can happen again. Apparently there was substantial autonomy granted under the Ottomans (19th Century), but that autonomy has been restricted since 1956 and particularly in the 1970's, and you can read the legal and religious reasoning behind.

This gives a framework for much of our US and coffee shop discussion on the role of one group in imposing on another, and what is morally legitimate, if anything.

For legal buffs, note how judges there as well as here are careful to weigh, define, expand or contract interpretations, and still can leave areas unreconciled and inconsistent. Any time the makeup of courts and government change - there seems to have been a watershed in the 1950's and 1970's - laws and interpretations go up for grabs. Here and there.

Application. How close is Egypt's modern interpretation of Islamic law to that of other Islamic countries? For anyone dealing with divorces in this country, between people of differing religious systems, the article raises the kinds of issues you should be assessing with your clients, of any other country's traditions. Whose law controls. Where. What is recognized there that we do here. Legal dhimmitude of the laws themselves.

Sites against dhimmi status: ://www.jewishmag.com/57mag/dhimmi/dhimmi.htm; or seeing it as an inexorably increasing empire, etc. ://www.dhimmi.org/Eurabia.html; ://www.dhimmi.org/

Sites saying look at the alternative that other cultures do to their underdogs, or on the protection aspect, or overviews of pros and cons, similar sentiments: ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhimmi

The clearest conflict seems to be - is this right?

a) the east looking to common good - social cohesion fixed by a common set moral code, even if that is subject so swings over time - at the expense, if that arises, of the individual; and

b) the west looking to individual actualization and enrichment, however flawed the means (barring a large percentage of the population from access, in order to serve the others), and using capitalism to do to that largely; and at the expense of looking seriously at moral obligations to others, despite religious words to the contrary.

Ne'er the twain? If nobody gravitates to the middle consensus - allowing the other to live as it chooses, without agreeing to the terms within its culture? Boom. Will the one ever let the individual desire be run roughshod, and will the other ever let the individual's desire jeopardize the whole.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Know thy Seller - Macaques, Machiavelli. Persuasion for Dominance. Uses of Stress. Hot air.

Dominance hierarchies.

Fear of fog - in not knowing who has what rank, and rank being important to so many. A human condition, or is it taught.

Even if one group or individual dominates, is there still an obligation for ethics in power plays.

Italian Medieval Prince Niccolo Macchiavelli said no, overall - see ://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/macchiav.htm

So we are left with the tension between power alliances and social bonds. Aggression to sustain position. Are those necessarily"core" to human relationships. Does or must the cycle of abuse remain unbroken. How much is personal choice. Or dumb absorption? Again, Macchiavelli writes of what princes need to do to get and keep power. Rule of tough. See ://www.philosophypages.com/hy/3v.htm

Dominance patterns - if they are automatic, inbred, are we stuck; or can we defuse. A look at defusing:

Start at home, yes, but there has to be more than the individual working at it.

Go to college - but where to start once there.

Dominance patterns of sexual and gender humiliation and abuse recur without (apparently) much official concern. Read the Yale Daily News dated February 5, 2008, if you subscribe; and see some pictures and comments from Yale folk at ://www.ivygateblog.com/blog/yale/; and the Hartford Courant' Kim Martineau reporting it at ://www.courant.com/news/local/hc-yalefrat0131.artjan31,0,7710386.story. See Hello, Fodder, Fodder's In The Ivy League - Yale. And Joy of Equivocating, Yale Cultural Dhimmi.

Simians. Where did it come from. Go to the treetops and plains. Read about the dominance patterns in our kin, monkeys - the macaques, at "Humans and Monkeys Share Machiavellian Intelligence," ://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071024144314.htm. Look at the jockeying. They bite and kick and use subterfuge to get what they want, too. Compete with no holds barred.

Fins. Go under water. Read about more distant kin - the Cichlid fish, Africa, at "A New Biochemical Link Established Between Sex, Stress and Dominance," ://www.google.com/search?q=biochemical+dominance&sourceid=navclient-ff&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGGL,GGGL:2006-28,GGGL:en.
See the actual color changes in the group that come with a supermacho's acceptance as dominant.

Cichlid fish that are dominated by a supermacho Cichlid fish, in the tank or pond, not only lose "status" by not being able to reproduce as much, but they lose their status symbols - they become dull-colored, lose the stripe by the eyes that the macho ones sport. The more stressed they get, the more the lose color.

Now back to humans. Dominance is circular with us, not merit-driven each generation. We can destabilize the human tank not just by displays, but by words - by arousing anxieties about groups invading all around you, immigrants, or women in a formerly male environment, or diseases, or other threats by shouting them out, even if they are not there yet. Stress is a matter of not only the "social state of the individual," but also the "stability of the community."

Once the stress starts, it is easy to dominate further. Abused become abusers. of ideas use stress to make subjects vulnerable to further incursions. Soften them up.*

How far have we evolved. If Yale is our example, we've gone backwards in managing our own culture, discerning the skill of the "persuaders." Look at young, athletic students, buying into slamming others, showing their own panic at perhaps not being dominant after all. Skip it. Skip dominance. Try skills. One turkey can bring down the whole tree.


*On a governmental regulation level, introduce stress by letting tainted products sicken us, staff the enforcement agencies with people profiting by nonenforcement.

Can any seller be trusted that stands to benefit financially or personally by the sale.
How to know that power is in hands that will serve your interests, when the words used are all over the map. Will there be any repercussions at Yale, not private measures, but fitting a public display, a systemic problem?

Meanwhile, the windmills blow and the blades go 'round, with all the hot air. Wind mills will keep going so long as there is wind, and nobody has put the brake log in out there in the yard - sticking a log in the cog.

Windmills of the mind. Propaganda, words, meanings, all keeping blades whop whop.

Hot air as a weapon. Fish losing their colors and stripes. Monkeys pushing and shoving. Us.
Try philosophy, those of you in college or out or with other things to do. What of dominance can you take with you? A meander: Medievals and others focused on the seven deadlies - not just competition and dominance. So look at that list. How about The Seven Deadly "Sins." -There is a current cinema interest in C.S.Lewis and Narnia, and here is an essay on the connection - ://cslewis.drzeus.net/papers/7sins.html. For 15th Century "Everyman" and his search for companions to Death (no-one will go except Good Deeds) see ://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/everyman.html.

Time, Place, Manner - An OK Corral for Free Political Speech.

Topic cluster: No-accountability fib "memes", and countermeasures, see Fib meme. OK Corral - see ://www.ok-corral.com/.

Corrals. These are structures to assist in getting jobs done by limiting escape hatches for the doer and the doee, usually seen on ranches - so Texans are sure to understand; or a stone enclosure version on Aran Island, here. See www.meriam-webster.com/dictionary/corral. A confinement space, and enclosure even for defense purposes. Enables focus, reinforcement, examination, planning, accomplishment of a task. A chance to become acquainted.

Form of corral for speech. This post suggests that Headlining, imposing Disclosure Requirements as to source and intent of the communication, are reasonable corrals to impose upon political speech, under our new circumstances. See proposed Plank at Pose Juxta - Plank: Political Speech as Commercial Speech. Now:

a) "advocacy journalism" is replacing objective forum-based news and information; and

b) we have changes in media ownership that give one person or entity the bully pulpit, see ://www.c-span.org/guide/congress/glossary/bullypul. The bully pulpit has moved from an exclusive perk of the White House, to ownership of TV that is heard 'round Everyman's House, and the local pub and even kindergarten. A great way to "persuasively advocate an agenda." TV's ubiquitous presence is very different from the internet's invited presence, individual to individual, Mr. FCC, Mr. Kevin Martin, and we see you finessed that idea by sheer position, not merit.

Who is a reporter, presenting full forum-based information; and who is an advocacy journalist, sifting information before it gets to us. We need to know. Create a corral to require it.

Need as to political speech: Like wild or other horses, everybody values robustness in democracy's discussions.

But, as with those horses, if those horses are to be useful (assuming there are plenty left out in the wild just being themselves, and that is a great value also), it takes an enclosure. Political speech - if going wild outside, it is fun to look at. But if we want to harness any to it to get something done, it also takes an enclosure. Enable the deciders - you and me - to determine if what we are hearing is opinion, underlying objective fact (difficulty enough there), or conclusion - and who sponsors the program or speaker. Who financially benefits here.

Headlining, Disclosure Requirements as a reasonable corral. Look at these parameters, already used in commercial speech and some other kinds of speech: restrictions on time-place-manner. Those considerations need not neuter the robust discussion that democracy values. Find background to this topic cluster at Joy of Equivocating - Fib Meme. For more background, stay here.

1. Disclosure as a "Manner" Corral. It does not abridge the speech, it discloses the speaker. Look at the claims and sales pitches made on airwaves or other media where the broad public has its first and preferred access to information - the good old TV on all the time, the radio going while the painter paints, or the plumber plumbs. So much is simply absorbed because the sound is there, in the ether. And with newspapers - opinion mixed with presentation of events.

The idea is to force the moves on the table in a democracy. To refuse to do that, nondisclosure, is to acknowledge that you can't do a fair win at all - you have to cheat.

Provide for a truth in labeling idea - alert clearly that this is now opinion, this is believed to be fact.

The internet offers a bit more discrimination because it takes a click to get there, and there is some intentionality to the click. Not so with TV. It goes on without you.

Move the piece when the other guy is not looking? The current "meme" - a fib in itself - but not immutable.

2. Headlining in TV, radio and newspapers as a "manner" corral. It alerts the listener to whether this is news, information, opinion, conclusion, or fact.

This is a way of putting the moves on the table. Words may simply sink in, unconscious because we are doing something else as with TV or radio, and we are apt believe it by conditioning, because it simply sinks in. And there is no effective way to find out the truth, or at least a range of truth when the process goes on, because our own experience is seldom direct when it comes to war and national economic analysis. It's all sales and conclusions and labeling and the effective emotional drag-down of name-calling when someone disagrees.

3. With common ownership of media resources, headlining becomes even more important.

How can citizens forge a path. There is disguised and undisguised advocacy journalism, on all sides, and soon to be from common sources; and personal experience is not enough to discern what is true and what is false.

It takes labeling, headlining, about who is saying what and the sponsorship, angle. News and information differ from advocacy journalism, and that will blur with one person/ entity owning the airwaves, the news, the radio in a community, as may well happen. FCC, you have dropped the ball. See Hello, Fodder: FCC on change in media ownership rules, 12/16/2007 (archive). Who are you and what do you gain personally or financially by saying this, and if you can convince me to go along?

4. The idea of time-place-manner restriction is already part of our law, so that one is not protected who falsely calls out "fire" in a crowded theater. There are some evils that Congress may reasonably prevent. It may be time to look at whether untrammeled free speech on public access media can be the equivalent of "falsely crying fire" in a theater, in a way that Holmes' "substantial evil" does result. For a basic overview of that issue, whether the first amendment protects someone in those circumstances, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schenck_v._United_States.

Countering a substantive evil. That substantial evil is not limited to panic - even though likely to ensue from the words used in that place and in that time and in that manner (World War III! World War III!).

That substantial evil also should the methodical undermining of our system itself, by keeping people in the dark or disinformed as to vital issues in the democracy. If so, then there is a way to put reasonable accountability into free speech - again.

How else can we address one owner of the newspapers and the tv and the radio in a community.
How else can the market of ideas work.

This does not limit the speaker. Talk on. It only means that if this particular speaker has no basis for what he or she says, or a limited or totally partisan basis for saying it, that gets disclosed. It does not impede the initial free speech. Say what you like. And if it is baseless, that also comes out.

Advantages: People would be enabled to receive what they need to know to decide something. Undercut would be advanced sales techniques (propaganda methods), FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt), emotional appeals with fancy words but not underlying facts to explain them or their applicability.

This may do little to civilize the airwaves, or stop the opinion name-calling, but it can bring claims back from the stratosphere of emotional pull alone.

Counter Meme, applying reasonable time, place and manner criteria.

All opinion and political position advocacy speech is protected as free speech.

However, where the speech is intentionally carried over media accessible to the public, then the
speaker shall be obligated, on request, to disclose the information used by the speaker in coming to his or her conclusions, and the funding behind him, if from outside his personal bankroll sources.


a) The market place of ideas requires that the public have some reasonable way of evaluating where an opinion or political view comes from, and what purpose it is serving. How else can the public choose what to buy and what not. And, personal experience does not cover whether to support a war or not, for example.

b) The private shouts of fire, or you-crazy, are unhindered, and anyone the lampshade on his or her head to the enjoyment of all.

Transparency, the bane of might. Regardless, let the people get at the underlying bases, and publicize falsies. Find out whazzup. They are free to talk, and people are free to show they are full of it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Uncle Remus and Life Education. Equivocation for the Young. Redaction Issues.

This post focuses on Uncle Remus' characters, Miss Meadows and the Gals - as they appear in several tales with Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox - some ambiguous, some not. Portions are redacted in later translations, raising issues of sanitizing to suit the powers, rather than allowing a full panoply of a story to unfold.

We have moved it to our main Uncle Remus site, Uncle Remus Tales, Translations: Redacting, Diluting in Retelling.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Dysphemism - The Uses of the Art of Making Things Sound Worse

Please join us for some dead pig's head* for brunch on Sunday, about 11:30. RSVP.

Meet Dysphemism:
making things sound worse, for a reason. Dysphemism - See www.linguistics.ucsb.edu/faculty/cumming/ling50/euphemism+dysphemism.htm.

Dysphemism prevents people from acting or approving. Euphemism induces them to act or approve.

Euphemism. We are probably more familiar with "euphemism" - making unsavory things sound better. See the in "Blue Skies Act," a dream name for trying to regulate the securities industry - keep it from selling speculative and visionary schemes. See <://www.seclaw.com/bluesky.htm. We really are talking anti-fraud here, but dare not use the term. The public might find out that fraud is there, in the alley, ready to snatch our purses as we buy the unbuilt condo by the planned golf course in the swamp on someone else's land that happens to be a former dump site and can't be built on until super-clean. How about the Clean Air Act, set out by the EPA to look gorgeous at http://www.epa.gov/air/caa/. What does it really do, what has been enforced, who benefits? I can't look.

Back to Dysphemism.

In social matters: You haul out the Dysphemism about the porker when you don't really want them to come. Or you want to distract them from the fact you are having an elegant filet supper after the opera Saturday and they aren't invited. Or, more domestically, "My back is killing me!" So I can't shovel.

In politics: Haul out dysphemism to instill fear, uncertainty, doubt about the merits of something or someone on the other side - the FUD trio coined by Gene Amdahl, at www.catb.org/jargon/html/F/FUD.html. Worry about that Unknown. Don't dare to try anything new. Change? But the road may not be paved over there....

In media: Use it to hold attention. Entertain. Up the ratings. See the weather channel. Le Deluge! Turns out to be Le Drip. This candidate has no chance! No chance! Oops.

Dysphemism. Another way of saying that frolics for profit, making up stories to fit 2 facts out of 10, while concealing at least 5 of those 10, schnockering and distraction are more valuable than news, information, truth. Control and persuasion. World War III! World War III! Who said that?

Can we handle uncertainty? Sure. Give us the bat. Persuasion by either polar opposite. Endangering.

* Scrapple, perhaps, to you. A Philadelphia favorite. A little cornmeal, a little ketchup, crispy out and softie in. Brekky.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Government for Dark Matter Problems: Positive Uses of the WIMP

How to decide things. This is Part I of a two-part look at our choices, what we have chosen so far, and what we may want to do - Joy of Equivocating, Informed Consensus, the Part II.

This is what we have done so far as human beings: When we disagree,

1. Use "WIMPS." Wimp out. Don't decide, don't confront, don't do anything. See what others do. This has not been a historically successful first choice. Those who started out in corners, avoiding conflict, often stayed there. See://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wimp. Or cowered on the beach, lest the bully kick sand in their faces. The message: they knew they could not win over the brawn coming at them. Other ways of Wimping is to choose the easy courses, to get the good grades, out of a desire to conserve personal energy, preserve time for the immediate fun future.

The New World WIMP. Take another look. But times are changing - at least in semantics. The word is now used differently - irony here. See ://dictionary.reference.com/browse/irony. WIMP is used for ways of setting direction, even if quietly. Not avoiding it.

Look it up. A WIMP in computerese is a computer-world pointing device, or other acronym with those letters arriving at a similar result - something important, pivotal to an operation. See ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WIMP_(computing). Find more acronyms for this now-active concept - ://www.acronymfinder.com/. A Windows Icons Menu Pointer.

See the Wimps of today in emerging Informed Consensusm below. An idea whose time came a long time ago, but nobody was watching.

Our other choices in making decisions: And how did they work out.

2. Use the Champion.

The joust. ://www.nationaljousting.com/history/medieval.htm. David and Goliath. Even at Nascar - see ://www.nascar.com/2008/news/headlines/cup/01/08/chili.bowl.david.goliath/index.html?eref=/rss/news/headlines/cup. Here, the reconstructed jousting area at Gniew, Poland; the Knights Templar castle there. Choose someone to go out there and win for you.

3. Just Use Brawn.
This works where there are clear rules, and reasonably matched contestants.

Sumo. An age-old sport. A revered and controlled setting. Behemoths, hierarchies, rituals, Grand Champions, rules. Slow-moving, inexorable force and submission. See://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2080.html. Beginners, you may want to start with the overview at://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumo. Fans, tickets at ://www.sumo.or.jp/eng/. See it at ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxhKb-zZoWE.

Superbowl. Confrontation through brawn, plus sneak. The secret play. The deception. Audiences cheer, trained as well as the performers - all play it out. A clear and measured contest. Only bored if one side runs away with the game. Seldom offended, rituals for everything. Many sports are like this. Fans want little left to the chance of a bad call. Referees are filmed and checked, most of the time. In sport, stick with rules and show of set skills, and the audience gets what it asks for and stays.

4. Use Promises, and Hope They Are Implemented: Where the Promising Side Does "It" and the Other Side Watches.

Theater is like the "promise" setting, where the audience pays money on the promise that the actors will present a good show, a worthwhile event. Then the audience will remain and applaud, or contribute to the cause.

Suspense will keep you there. Theater is a process, not a "contest" at first. And the promise is there.

Supposing, however, promises broken. That the performance goes off the wall. Imagine a curtain going up,* five minutes of running about onstage, gesticulating, sumos, sneakers, streakers, shoppers, all at once; curtain down. Curtain up five minutes, curtain down.

The Theater. If the audience had been fully informed (even as to existence of secrets, so others could check it out), and included in what to expect, their significant participation invited before they got fed up (like now) and just left.

The play might go on. The promise would have taken a different form in advance.

But, without advance information, imagine: Sudden curtain up five minutes, curtain down. Interspersed in the darkness: large explosion sound, shouts and strobe lights. Curtain up five minutes, add stretchers stage left dash to stage right. Curtain down. Curtain up...down...curtains. Gamers in the audience play on, eyes never lifted. Their own joysticks, oblivious, do not disturb.

Meanwhile on stage, the up...down...

Finally, some in the audience finally, making individual decisions, nip out, duck out, slip out, until finally all are truly out. Curtain up. Audience on the lam. Finally. A passive group decision. What is going on here? What did we pay for? What if an actual discussion started earlier. Too late. Curtains. The nature of the promise, what to expect, the good faith, makes all the difference.

5. Work toward "Active" or Informed Consensus -

A mutuality in the outcome. But Consensus? Why bother. It takes effort - work! Involvement! That's one for the wimps. Nobody ever "agrees." Time waster. Just get the job done. One over 50% takes all.? Over my dead body. Proactive communication? Problem solving? Ha.

Even some of its proponents undercut the idea of consensus as applying to anything but the tiniest of groups and egos. The beckon of intermittent mayhem instead, as more satisfying, culturally sympatico. See, for example ://projects.edtech.sandi.net/staffdev/tpss99/processguides/consensus. That site says it is an option for small groups but certainly not for something larger or more important, like nations.

Support for the idea that consensus works for soft things, like humanities, but not for the hard knocks of politics: Look at the United Nations - practical problems set in fast.

6. Use Sales with Force as the Persuader. Better off and more efficient and satisfying just to pack some heat. Propaganda - get people when they don't realize they're being sold - see www.propagandacritic.com.

Seeking agreement means gridlock, say the brawns, and we like agendas that are personal, rather than serving the the Common Good. We like Winning as we define it.

7. Just Stack the Deck. Appoint Deciders who will do what you want, and let them do it for you. See Hello, Fodder: Card-Stacking as Propaganda Method. It works. See www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSN1925683320080219. Appoint the right ones, and they don't even have to explain themselves.

Theme song: "Who's Fodder Now? Who's Fodder Now? Whose Heart is Achin'...." See www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/c/connie_francis/whos_sorry_now.html

What's the score?

In decisions, so far the ability to beat up is the historical skill, combined with the "sneak," keeping information out and blocking dissension or the appearance of dissension is the key.

Is that right?

The philosophy seems to be, as to combat vs. consensus, those who can, do. Combat wins. They set up a throne, do battle, and win it. Those who can't, tut and chat: around their endless round tables, while the Deciders expand the size and number of the rings, and the fantasy-driven curtains go up and down and explode below. Another one. Tut. Chat.

Enough. Rethink the rules and plot.

Consensus can never be the one way of making decisions, because that leaves some turkey with veto power, then you have to do battle anyway. If you see consensus as requiring unanimous agreement, that may well not be feasible as an approach.

Consensus, in the short term, does take longer. Transparency and talk are slower than just pushing the button and there are probably some "state secrets"? We know that. We know that we must provide for exigencies and movement forward regardless at some point, task-0rientation and time limits. We know we can do that with checks and balances and required transparency against self-styled Wizards there behind the curtains, in setting that point.

Long term, however, is there more stability? And politics is neither sport nor theater.

The reality is that Government decides how you will live and how you will die, if 1) your income is moderate or less and 2) you don't own the house and senate and judiciary and white house.

So get out of your seat and pay attention, fans and audiences. Participate in how those things are decided - with your input, or not.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Persuasion Arsenal - Equivocation, Figures of Speech, Rhetoric and Faust

Load the Guns
Equivocation in Rhetoric and Figures of Speech

The arsenal of persuasion: Rhetoric.

The engineering of consent - how it is done. See Three Ways - Edward Bernays, One.

And luring people in with fine-sounding words signifying... signifying... signifying... signifying what?

What did that person say? Did I actually sign that paper? What did I sign and he's gone!

Rhetoric, persuasion. An art. And a weapon.

Rhetoric originally meant a way to convince, to "elevate" thoughts and goals. In Plato, this became a way to "win the soul by discourse." See overview of definitions by the Greats at ://www.americanrhetoric.com/rhetoricdefinitions.htm.

1. The Dark Side of Rhetoric.

Rhetoric has its dark uses. A technique of persuasion for good can equally be used as persuasion for evil and hurt or profit at the expense of others; or at least, illusion. Persuaded to reach for illusion for one's own self-destruction has been a theme of literature - See
Mephistopheles and Faust, summary at ://www.awerty.com/faust.html

2. Why learn the tactics.

Learn them because they are used by people who want something from you. Money, loyalty, whatever. The techniques work on you. What is the distance from rhetoric winning the soul, as in Plato; to selling the soul, or contriving to persuade one to part from it, as in Faust. The allegory that drives the western world?

Rhetoric, arts of persuasion, are prominent in rises of political and religious power. See the reference to Mephistopheles' abilities": the "...apparent creation of meaning by the systematic use of meaningless signs." That is from "Remarks on Goethe's Faust" at ://www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/Classes/UH348/remarks-2-I.html.

Read the play, "Faust," at ://www.levity.com/alchemy/faustidx.html. The idea of man selling his soul for temporary riches - and eternal devastation. For the religious, damnation.

The story is from a legend, other versions at ://www.pitt.edu/~dash/faust.html. Go back to college for yourself and use this study guide - at ://www.wsu.edu/~brians/hum_303/faust.html

3. Introductory forms of rhetoric

For the concepts of rhetoric, see ://www/uky.edu/AS/Classics/rhetoric.html. The lists are very long. A world to itself. Here, look closely at rhetorical "equivocation" and "ambiguity" as a start. Rhetorical terms are also useful Trivia, or in Scrabble.

b. Equivocation and Ambiguity.

The open-ended nonending or significance that leaves you hanging. Equivocation, vagueness, may not be literally false, but avoids an unpleasant truth, an element of purposeful misleading, see ://dictionary.die.net/equivocation/. Ambiguity: doubtful meaning, see ://www.answers.com/topic/ambiguity/.
See Joy of Equivocating, Persuasion Arsenal, Equivocation, Rhetoric, Figures of Speech.

c. Specific figures of speech.

Figures of speech are words used for an effect, but probably not meant literally. A common example, an exaggeration for effect: "I'm starving." See ://www.usingenglish.com/glossary/figure-of-speech.html/
For the very long list, see ://www.nipissingu.ca/faculty/williams/figofspe.htm. That site lays out this huge spewing fountain in a variety of ways - a few from the lists -
  • Interpret by metaphor, "My love is a red, red rose." See://www.rhlschool.com/eng3n26.htm/. Or, Samantha Power (this, an update November 28, 2008), forcibly ousted because she was heard to call Hillary Clinton a "monster." That was probably meant as a figure of speech, a metaphor, not literally, but literally it was taken and out she went. Until now, when she is in again. Fine. We need national lessons in figures of speech before we go overboard.
  • Interpret by simile: "My love is liike a red, red rose." See://www.rhlschool.com/eng3n25.htm/ "Adding this last earmark is like putting lipstick on a pig." Another update
  • Interpret by analogy: "My love is to my life as water is to a shriveling philodendron." ://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/lit_terms/analogy.html
Professionals discussing equivocation are beyond us. See //crx.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/27/2/161. Or, crx.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/23/3/261.

At that nipissingu site are additional examples of figures of speech, such as repetition patterns, and variations in word order. Rhetoric = hooks into your head. The catchiness, the cleverness.

c. Masters of Rhetoric. The classics. Greeks and Romans.

Greeks. Here, the Parthenon in Athens. In addition to Plato, Aristotle - a Master - at ://www.public.iastate.edu/~honeyl.Rhetoric/.

If this is all new to you, try ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhetoric. Persuasion through spoken, visual, written or heard language.

Much talk is not straight.

So, spot the techniques. When is a meaning intended to be literal, and when is it figurative, pointing to something else.

When a speech is particularly moving, how many of these can you find. When a phrase jars your ears, can you define what was attempted, and why it failed.
If not, you may be open to something like it the next time, and that one may succeed.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Buyer Beware. Political Lessons from the Sassafras. Lobes Alike At the Top?

Meet the Sassafras.
Understory, shrubby, types.
Lobes, mittens, puppets.

Meet the candidates.
In the shadows, talk.
I am different!

Someone a winner.
Now, up in the canopy.
One shape, by this time.

The leveler strikes.
Interesting ones now gone.
Left, the least unique.


Illusion out there.
That what you vote for, will stay
With its same lobe-shape.

Not so, says the past.

Buyers, voters, investors,
Is choice meaningful.

Situation Room Triangle.
Side A. Taint. .
Side B. Equivocation.
Side C. Self-serve.

Time again for hope?
Things will be different this time?
Canopy: Alike?

See ://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Sass_alb.html; and ://www.watersheds.org/nature/lobes.htm#sassafras.

Fruits of our own looms.*
* How to break the pattern. How to keep the variety of interests and dedications in the understory alive once they reach the top of the sassafras?
  • Is it time to reinstate personal liability for corporate acts. How to do that globally - so the corporation just doesn't offshore itself. Would all CEO's look alike then.
  • Or institute the fiduciary standard for all fact-finding, fact communications. Where one party is in the superior position as to knowledge, that party must look out for the interest of the lesser informed or able. See fiduciary at ://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fiduciary.
  • The Preamble to the Constitution calls for the fiduciary:
    "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
    See://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/preamble/. The aim is promotion of the general welfare, in there with peace, defense, liberty.

    One vote tilting over 50% means winner take all?
  • Nuts. See//www.thedropzone.org/europe/Bulge/kinnard.html. Look up General McAuliffe there at the Battle of the Bulge.
  • Ignore what happens at the top?


* For an unstructured, whimsical romp with sassafras and its history with root beer, nothing really organized, see Sassafras and History.