Category ►►► Atrocious Analogies

August 4, 2009

Who Are We to Face Down Peasants With Pitchforks and Deny Them Their Meat and Circuses?

Atrocious Analogies
Hatched by Dafydd

Hey, kids, everyone's doing it... let's join the launch mob!

Joke's on us

The jamoke's on us

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 4, 2009, at the time of 6:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 11, 2007

Car Wars

Atrocious Analogies
Hatched by Dafydd

Joe needs a new car. He heads down to the dealer, picks one out, and signs the financing agreement with the salesman, Marty. Alas, that particular car is out of stock, he's told; he'll have to wait a month, and then it will be delivered.

Joe goes home. A week later, the first statement for his car payments arrives; he pays it. When the next statement arrives a month later, and he still hasn't received the car, Joe starts to fret a bit. But when six months pass -- six payments made -- and he still has no car, he gets angry.

"Where's my car?" he demands. Marty angrily shouts at him, "do you expect a car for nothing? We must negotiate."

"We already negotiated," says Joe, "and we came to an agreement: I bought the car for $20,000, and I've been making payments for six months."

"That was the old price," says Marty; "two months ago, we raised the price to $30,000. Where's the other $10,000 you cheated us out of, you car thief?"

Joe complains to his neighbors, but they all yell at him for trying to cheat Marty out of the $10,000 that is rightfully his. Incidentally, it dawns on Joe that his neighbors all attend the same tailgate parties with Marty and have been close friends with Marty for decades.

Since the car is so important to Joe's life, he agrees to the $10,000 increase in price. The next day, he receives a new statement, billing him not only at the increased rate, but including an overdue notice (with substantial interest and penalties) on the previous six payments, which have all been retroactively increased to the new amount. Joe dips into his savings and pays it.

But still, no car. Joe returns to Marty and demands that his car be delivered immediately. That night, unknown vandals tear up all his shrubbery; Marty calls Joe at five in the morning to inform him that his shrubbery is strewn around his front lawn. "Gee, what a shame," says Marty; "now what was that you were saying about some car you want us to give you?" He says that if Joe wants the car, he'd better come over and plant some "new shrubbery" Marty just got.

A friend of Joe's from across town, a real big guy named Sam, suggests that this can all be settled with a summit meeting between Joe, Sam, Marty, and some of the neighbors. "Why the neighbors?" asks Joe, puzzled; "what do they have to do with it?"

"You live in a community, Joe," says Sam; "no man is an island. Don't your neighbors have a vested interest in seeing that the rule of law is respected in your neighborhood?"

So Joe agrees to the meeting; Marty calls Sam and says he'll only attend if Joe guarantees that the outcome will be that Joe agrees to the new price of $40,000 for the car, stops telling people that Marty failed to deliver the car, and agrees to defer delivery of the car for another two years.

Joe calls the demand outrageous. Sam leans on Marty, and Marty and the neighbors attend the meeting without the preconditions. But at the meeting, Marty makes the same demand -- this time adding that Joe must take Marty's six kids out for a day of fun in the sun at Disneyland, at Joe's expense.

Joe is tired of all the troubles. He just wants his car. He makes his own offer: He will get a loan from a bank, and pay Marty the entire $30,000 in cash. He won't even deduct the amount he has already paid. In exchange, Marty must, no excuses, deliver the car.

In rage and fury, Marty denounces Joe and Sam. "How dare you imply that I'm a crook?" Marty storms out, joined by all the neighbors, who shout "you've stolen your last dollar!" at Joe as they leave. That night, a mob of hooded people (who nevertheless look awfully familiar to Joe) surround his house and hurl rocks and bottles, chanting "death to Joe, death to Joe!"

The next morning, as Sam sadly helps Joe clean up the broken glass, Sam tells him, "Joe, here's the problem: You can't just ignore Marty and the neighbors. You're just going to have to agree to negotiate. I'm convinced that if you're willing to bend a little -- say, by waiting until you've finished paying off the car before making demands -- then surely Marty will solemnly promise to deliver the car... in the very near future."


Does anybody have any idea what the heck I'm talking about? Or does this post completely mystify?

But what I really mean to ask is -- does anybody at the State Department have any clue what this analogy is all about?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 11, 2007, at the time of 2:37 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

March 14, 2007

Putting Into Perspective

Atrocious Analogies
Hatched by Dafydd

Here is a thought experiment...

Suppose you're the CEO of a huge corporation, UsCo Inc. You and the BoD have decided that the strategy for the next few years will be to transition more and more of UsCo's business away from what it's been doing (with declining market share) for the past 20 years -- contracting to other companies for their accounting needs. It's been squeezed out in the last decade by a number of new competitors.

Instead, you're going to transition UsCo to primarily an accounting software company: UsCo has a product it has used in-house for the past six years, and it's better than what any of the competitors use. It's been selling it for the past three years, and the company is already having much more success (more profit) from that small division than the whole rest of UsCo combined.

However, eight of UsCo's 93 senior managers seem to have a problem with the new strategy: They think it won't work, they're not comfortable with it, they think the company should continue to contract accounting services as they always have. Worse, they're simply refusing to move towards the new focus; they continue doing business as usual as if the board hadn't said a thing.

More and more mid-level managers and worker-bee employees working under these eight managers are complaining that when they try to follow the new corporate focus, they run into a brick wall: They're told in no uncertain terms to stop changing things and go back to what they were doing.

These eight managers listen politely when the VPs and even board members of UsCo tell them to get with the program; but then they go back and continue doing exactly what they were doing in the first place. They seem excessively comfortable with the status quo.

What (if anything) do you, as CEO, do about this?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 14, 2007, at the time of 3:12 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

March 2, 2007

A Question for Anyone Who Questions "Swift Boaters"

Atrocious Analogies
Hatched by Dafydd

I'm getting awfully tired of the verb-phrase "to Swift Boat," meaning "an unfair and corrupt attack that should be banned from the airwaves." Here is the latest, tossed into a story about Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-At Large, 100%) senior thesis at Wellesley College in 1969:

With Clinton’s opponents in the 2008 presidential race looking for the next “Swift Boat” attack ad, and the senator herself trying to cast off her liberal image, Clinton's 92-page thesis is certain to be read and reread by opposition researchers and reporters visiting the campus.

Clinton's thesis was subtitled "An Analysis of the Alinsky Model," referring to the leftist agitator Saul Alinsky, considered a mentor by many of the radical student protestors in the 60s -- though Alinsky himself was less impressed by them than they were by him. Clinton's "analysis" consisted of a consideration of whether his tactics of personal confrontation and what another speaker called "coercive protests" were more or less effective than other tactics.

Now, to be fair, this particular article does not come out and say that "Swift Boat" attack ads should be banned; but it certainly plays into that popularly held opinion on the Left. Bill Dedman uses the phrase as shorthand for right-wing attacks launched by Republicans against, to pick an example at random, Hillary Clinton.

And he's not alone; I've seen the same type of phrase used for the same purpose at least five times in the the last month... always by "progressive" writers who naturally assume the reader accepts their vision of those anti-Kerry ads as lying, manipulative, and corrupt. (This is a perfect example of trying to control debate by defining the terms.)

Those same invokers of "Swift Boat-ism" uniformly believe that the FCC or the FEC should "regulate" ad content to prevent such attacks in the future. But I have a question for them:

Suppose that in 2004, a group of fighter pilots at the Alabama Air National Guard had emerged, many of whom had personally known Lt. George W. Bush when he was there in the early 1970s. Suppose they stated that they had personal knowledge that he had been AWOL many times during that period. Suppose they made TV commercials saying exactly that.

Should those hypothetical ads have been banned from the airwaves during the 2004 election?

My answer would be No: They should be allowed to tell their story; President Bush should be allowed to rebut with his own ads, in news conferences, or during the debates; and the American people should decide which side they believe.

So far, I have never heard any prominent Democrat complain about (for a similar but much more egregious example) the September 8th, 2004 CBS 60 Minutes segment introducing the "Killian memos." (Note that none of the documents brought forth by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was ever discovered to be a forgery.)

So I suspect I have the answer to my question: It's just another tired repetition of "free speech for me but not for thee." I'm shocked, shocked to discover politicking among political activists.

In the slither-on, I finish the story about Sen. Hillary Clinton's senior thesis at Wellesley: did she embrace or reject Saul Alinsky's radicalism? Click to find out...

As an aside, the central question of the MSNBC story is whether Clinton's thesis supported Alinsky -- who certainly verged awfully close to Marxism, saved only by his self-conscious desire to be an iconoclast -- or whether she rejected his radicalism.

Answer: she eagerly embraced his goal, but she questioned his tactics... not on moral grounds, however. In fact, during Clinton's graduation speech at Wellesley -- where she was not valedictorian, by the way -- she attacked the featured speaker, a black Republican, for rejecting "coercive protest," thus lauding it by implication.

Rather, Hillary Clinton's objection to Alinsky's aggressive and coercive tactics was that they weren't as effective as the government strongarm tactics that Clinton later chose for herself. For example, her health-care model envisioned "health-care alliances" that bore such an uncany similarity to Benito Mussolini's "business alliances," that one must almost conclude she wrote the proposal with a history of Italian Fascism open in front of her.

That is, Hillary Clinton rejected Alinsky's model of personal, confrontational protest in favor of seizing the levers of power and using government to cram socialism down the people's throat, good and hard, for their own good... the exact tactic Thomas Sowell identified in his seminal book the Vision of the Anointed.

Thus, those who thought Alinsky's thoughts were the key to Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton Rodham were, in fact, vindicated: in 1969, while she rejected his tactics as ineffective, she thoroughly internatlized his goal of world socialism and unionism... simply driven by law, not personal conscience. Her progressive soulmates who tried to downplay the Alinsky connection were foolishly wrong.

Dedman sees no particular irony in his conclusion; he seems to believe that this discovery enhances Clinton's appeal; and among her set, it probably will. He appears charmingly unaware that it's not just Clinton's "critics" who might find it less appealing that a presidential candidate, as a young woman, so ardently agreed with the goals of a radical leftist organizer.

They might wonder whether she still does today. And judging by her 2003 autobiography Living History, the answer is Yes, she does:

“I agreed with some of Alinsky's ideas,” she explained in “Living History,” her 2003 biography, “particularly the value of empowering people to help themselves. But we had a fundamental disagreement. He believed you could change the system only from the outside. I didn't.”

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 2, 2007, at the time of 3:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 29, 2006

The Lynne Cheney Smear Blowback

Atrocious Analogies , Elections , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

So let's take a quick look at the Lynne Cheney/James Webb imbroglio. A few days ago, Sen. George Allen (R-VA, 100%) released passages from some of the books (fiction and non-) published by his Democratic opponent, Jim Webb... excerpts that denigrate women and are very sexually explicit (and one bizarre cultural scene that probably isn't sex related, but is still awfully weird).

In a powerfully idiotic response that smacks of panic, Webb lashed out... not at Sen. Allen, but at Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president:

There’s nothing that’s been in any of my novels that in my view, hasn’t been either illuminating the surroundings, or defining a character, or moving a plot. I’m a serious writer. I mean, we can go and read Lynne Cheney’s lesbian love scenes if you want to, you know, get graphic on stuff.

I rely for veracity of the quote above upon CNN, which showed a clip of Webb during Wolf Blitzer's interview of Lynne Cheney -- ostensibly about her children's book, Our 50 States. I think it unlikely -- at least! -- that CNN would manufacture a fake clip just to burn Jim Webb.

Hugh's transcript of what Webb said is completely accurate: here is the YouTube clip. Webb's insert starts at 5:45 into the video:

(If this thingie actually works, it's the first YouTube video ever posted on Big LIzards!)

Let's start with the easy reasons why this is just about the worst way Webb could have chosen to respond to the Allen attack:

  1. Lynne Cheney isn't running for election anywhere. Neither is her husband, Vice President Dick Cheney.
  2. Neither of the Cheneys is from Virginia; both are from Wyoming, thousands of miles away.
  3. Lynne Cheney is a very sweet lady, beloved in most of the country (like Barbara Bush the elder); attacking her is like attacking Grandma.

See if Secretary Webb can squeeze this in between his ears: you don't attack someone like Lynne Cheney in the middle of your tight senatorial campaign. You just don't.

Why not? Does she have absolute moral authority, like Cindy Sheehan or the Jersey Girls? No, not at all; Lynne Cheney mixes it up in politics, and you can debate her (as Blitzer does) without anyone calling you a degenerate. But the reason you don't attack her is that you just end up looking like a big, mean, stupid jerk -- who doesn't think very highly of women.

  1. But here's one more reason why this particular fight picked by Webb demonstrates judgment so bad, it alone should disqualify him from public office: the very claim he made is a complete fabrication, easily disproved -- even by looking at left-liberal, Democratic websites like this one!

There are fifteen different excerpts on that site from Lynne Cheney's novel Sisters; please take the time to read them all. It shouldn't take you more than a few minutes -- five, tops. Let me know when you're back.

Dum de-dum, dum-ditty-ditty-dum-dah-DEE! ...Oops, sorry about that.

All right, now for the $20,887,197 question (that's the total amount raised in the Virginia Senate race as of mid-October, by the way): Would somebody please quote me the passage from Cheney's 1981 book that constitutes a "graphic" "lesbian love scene?" (Believe me, I've read hundreds, and I know what they're supposed to look like.)

All right... how about a non-graphic lesbian love scene? The closest we come is "Sophie" (evidently the protagonist) seeing a couple of women "embracing" in a wagon (the book takes place in 19th-century Wyoming, so you can envision this as a pioneer's covered wagon, if you please; a conestoga; a prairie schooner). Maybe you could call that a non-graphic lesbians in love scene; but that's not the same thing, is it?

You can contrast those passages you just read with these, courtesy Jim Webb. See if we can determine which of the two is "graphic."

Now honest to goodness, I have nothing against Webb writing graphic sex scenes in his books (though they appear a bit florid and forced; but maybe they're better motivated in context). I've written such myself -- and in a science-fiction magazine read by children! I think Allen's attack was silly.

And there are a number of responses Webb could have made that would have defanged the attack, maybe even turned it back on Allen. For example, "what will Geoge Allen do next... attack Murphy Brown?" Or if that's too esoteric, how about, "when I write about bad guys, I make them act really bad. That's why we call them -- bad guys!"

But I am at a complete loss here. How could a major-party candidate for the United States Senate be such a chowderhead, such a dunce, as to allow the DNC (or whoever gave him the talking points) to make a complete ass of him?

Has James Webb literally never heard of Google? Or for heaven's sake, he could have just sent a gofer down to the library to check the book out, then spent a marathon night reading the thing, before making a foolish charge so publicly.

As I said: judgment this incredibly bad, in and of itself, should DQ him from the job he's currently pursuing.

(Thanks to commenter Keys for catching a couple of typos above.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 29, 2006, at the time of 5:03 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 25, 2006

The Friend Lee Lemma

Atrocious Analogies , Elections
Hatched by Dafydd

Friend Lee, who assiduously follows all sporting events, including musk-ox racing in Nuuk Godthab, is of course watching each game of the World Series (of baseball, not poker), well-licked pencil stub in hand (yes, he's a stats freak; are you really surprised?) He suggests that we should all be rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals, because of a bizarre but nevertheless tenuous political connection. I have dubbed it the Friend Lee Lemma:

  1. In Missouri, Republican incumbent Sen. Jim Talent is running for reelection.
  2. By contrast, in Michigan, incumbent Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants another four years in the job, and incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow wants another six.
  3. It's a well known fact, which I just made up, that happy, gleeful voters tend to vote for the incumbent. By contrast, miserable, angry, bitter, resentful, hate-filled, and homicidal voters tend to vote for challengers.
  4. Hence, we want Missourians to be filled with transcendent giddiness, while Michiganites should be weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth (which is also good for the economics of modern dentistry).
  5. So therefore, we should all root, root, root for the birds, not the cats. Quod erat demonstrandum, which I think means "also sprach Zarathustra."

This is what Friend Lee spends his days doing, when he's not recalculating every ballplayer's batting average, error average, and body-fat average. Gruesome, isn't it?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 25, 2006, at the time of 7:17 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 18, 2006

Threat, or Menace, Part Deux

Atrocious Analogies , Blogomania , Hezbollah Horrors , Israel Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

So Scott Johnson finally dropped the other slipper in his continuing bad analogy comparing the US-brokered, UN-supported ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hezbollah to the 1938 Munich agreement, brokered by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, among others. In our last episode, Scott stated that the Munich agreement resulted in a delay of World War II by about a year -- during which time, Scott asserted, Germany got stronger relative to the UK -- hence, it was a terrible agreement from Britain's perspective:

Like the UN resolution, the Munich Agreement assured that war, when it came, would be on terms more favorable to the fascists than they otherwise would have been.

At the end of the post, he added an update, in which a historian, John Steele Gordon, countered that the RAF had dramatically increased its strength relative to the German Luftwaffe... thus, that there is a good argument, at least, that the Munich agreement was actually good for Britain:

But had the Battle of Britain been fought in the summer of 1939 instead of a year later, those few to whom so much is owed would not have been able to save the many.

(Gordon refers, of course, to Winston Churchill's famous aphorism about the Royal Air Force: "Never have so many owed so much to so few".)

Now, this seemed a rather damning claim; if true, it completely undercuts Scott's analogy. But this was Scott's response to this point:

The first point I leave to pursue another day.

I suggested in my previous post that surely that other day had better be soon; I don't imagine that Scott was responding to me -- I highly doubt he reads Big Lizards! -- but evidently, sundry other readers responded via e-mail, rather than a blog entry, and Scott has realized he needs to address the argument directly.

Well... more or less. He still talks around the core question, which is (if you haven't forgotten in all the excitement) whether the 1938 Munich agreement was good or bad for the civilized world.

"Common sense" says it was bad; but common sense is what tells us that the world is flat, so it doesn't have much of a track record. We need some uncommon sense, which is another word for actual analysis. This he attempts to provide by a series of quotations, largely unanalyzed themselves (except by their selection).

From a biography of Churchill by William Manchester, Scott notes that, while it's true that the RAF increased from five to 47 squadrons during that time, and also dramatically increased its anti-aircraft batteries, the ground and naval forces remained static. In fact, Chamberlain refused to increase the army budget from 1938-1939, nor did he order a military draft; quoting Manchester, Scott writes:

In every other category--artillery, tanks, and equipped divisions--Nazi gains were overwhelming...The number of Nazi divisions jumped from seven to fifty-one...

But of course, as we all know from history, Germany never invaded the British Isles -- precisely because they could never win the air war against the RAF, and likely for that reason, could never win the sea battle against the Royal Navy. A reasonable person might conclude that Chamberlain deliberately chose a strategy of interdicting the Nazis before they landed, rather than a strategy where:

[W]e shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills....

Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems to have worked -- provided Chamberlain was ousted (forced to resign) in May of 1940, on the eve of Germany's Netherlands campaign, to be replaced by Churchill... an almost miraculous turn of events in Great Britain. (Perhaps that was part of Chamberlain's grand strategy!)

Still, many people believe that Hitler might have been more stoppable if the eventual Allies had been able to launch a massive assault in mid-1938 or early-1939; but there's really no way they could have done that. France's army, thought to be the most powerful in Europe, turned out to be made of papier-mâché; had Great Britain relied upon their historical allies, the French, to keep their backs while they charged into the valley of death, the Brits might have found themselves "Paris"-ed.

Scott quotes also from Winston Churchill's own account of that period, the Gathering Storm, in service of the point that Chamberlain should have considered what might happen to France and Czechoslovakia, not merely what happened to Great Britain -- mostly, I think Scott means, because after falling, they could not help fight the Nazis:

The subjugation of Czechosloviakia robbed the Allies of the Czech Army of twenty-one regular divisions, fifteen or sixteen second-line divisions already mobilised, and also their mountain fortress line which, in the days of Munich, had required the deployment of thirty German divisions, or the main strength of the mobile and fully trained German Army.... We certainly suffered a loss through the fall of Czechoslovakia equivalent to some thirty-five divisions. Besides this the Skoda Works, the second most important arsenal in Central Europe, was made to change sides adversely....

Even more disastrous was the alteration in the relative strength of the French and German Armies. With every month that passed, from 1938 onwards the German Army was not only increased in numbers and formations, and in the accumulation of reserves, but in quality and maturity....

Far be it from me to argue with Winston Churchill, my favorite hero of World War II. But -- well, what at the odds that, absent the Munich agreement, the Nazis would have decided not to attack Czechoslovakia? And had they attacked, does any historian argue that they would have lost and been sent reeling backwards by the Czechs and Slovaks?

Clearly, whatever state the Allied armies were in at the time of the Munich agreement, they would have been in the same state during a Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in the alternative history we postulate, since that invasion would probably have happened within weeks of an Allied refusal at Munich. And having watched the reduction of Czechoslovakia -- and the certainty that the Nazis would have treated that country the way Rome treated Carthage -- does anybody believe this would have stiffened the French spines, causing them to have more courage?

In my completely untrained and uninformed opinion, the French collapsed in 44 days not because they didn't have a big enough army, but because they didn't have a big enough will to fight. There is no reason to believe that their already shaky intestinal fortitude would have been increased by watching a horrific, bloody, futile defense of Czechoslovakia.

Finally, Scott quotes from Telford Taylor's Munich: The Price of Peace:

[O]ne can safely say that that the possibility of establishing an allied front in France that would hold would have been far better than it was when the war actually began--both because France and especially Britain would have had more time to strengthen the front, and because Germany could not have denuded her eastern frontiers and concentrated virtually all her forces in the west, as she was able to do after the Nazi-Soviet pact and the destruction of Poland.

But what makes Taylor think that if the war had come a year sooner, the Hitler-Stalin Pact, and the accompanying dismemberment of Finland, Poland, Romania, and the Baltics, wouldn't also have come a year sooner? Does he even address that question?

Taylor appears, in this passage, to think of the Pact as if it were an uncontrollable and external force of nature, like a volcanic eruption or a solar flare. But in reality, it was Stalin's attempt to forestall war with the Nazis either forever, if Hitler had kept his part of it, or at least until the Red Army could be strengthened enough to be up to the fight, in Uncle Joe's opinion. If open war with the USSR had loomed earlier than it did, doesn't it make sense that Stalin would have agreed to a Pact then?

It was certainly in Hitler's best interest to secure his eastern border before embarking upon a war in the West; and Stalin surely had no great reason to love the Allies any more than he loved the Nazis... less, in fact, as National Socialism was less intrinsically antithetical to Soviet Communism than was Western capitalism. (Hitler railed against Communism -- but he railed just as much against capitalism. Of course, his hatred of the Jews overmatched both, but that's irrelevant to this specific point.)

Thus, as always happens in alternative history, we're left with a hundred question marks for every exclamation point. Even Scott admits as such:

The variables that must be taken into account of course make it difficult to reach any conclusion with absolute certainty.

Truer words are rarely spoken... and now I find that the analogy between the Munich agreement and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, the Israeli-Hezbollah ceasefire agreement, is not so "atrocious" afterall, for they share a critical element: in neither case do we have enough information now to say whether it was good or bad for the civilized world.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 18, 2006, at the time of 3:06 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 17, 2006

U.N. Ceasefire Agreement - Threat, or Menace?

Atrocious Analogies , Blogomania , Hezbollah Horrors , Israel Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

In a very puzzling passage from yet another Scott Johnson post comparing the Israeli-Hezbollah ceasefire agreement to Neville Chamberlain's Munich Agreement ("Peace in our time!"), we find the following exchange:

Scott Johnson:

Like the UN resolution, the Munich Agreement assured that war, when it came, would be on terms more favorable to the fascists than they otherwise would have been.

Historian John Steele Gordon (who Scott quotes in an update):

First, Munich, signed September 30th, gave Britain eleven months to rearm before war broke out, which it did with increasing vigor, as Chamberlain greatly accelerated rearmament immediately after Munich. The Royal Air Force was relatively stronger vis-a-vis the Luftwaffe in September, 1939, than in September, 1938. It was still miserably weak, to be sure. But had the Battle of Britain been fought in the summer of 1939 instead of a year later, those few to whom so much is owed would not have been able to save the many.

Scott Johnson:

The first point I leave to pursue another day.

But great Scot, Scott, doesn't this completely blow your analogy out of the water? If in fact the Munich Agreement meant that the war, when it came, was actually fought on terms more favorable to the RAF than the Luftwaffe, and if you're correct that Munich is analogous to the current ceasefire agreement, then....

Well, perhaps "another day" should come pretty darned quick, if it's to save your argument from complete collapse!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 17, 2006, at the time of 4:08 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

June 22, 2006

Adolf vs. Ann

Atrocious Analogies
Hatched by Dafydd

Ryan Sager at Real Clear Politics linked to a snide but ultimately vindicating test, in which readers are given the opportunity to examine fourteen statements... and guess which was written by Ann Coulter and which by Adolf Hitler.

(The Hitler quotations are altered to refer to liberals and America; I don't know if they originally referred to Jews -- probably some of them -- or Communists -- probably some of them.)

It's easy to guess what quiz result is eagerly anticipated (and desired) by its author, some anonymous student, professor, or other faculty at the University of Virginia: he (or she) expected test takers would be flummuxed, unable to pick which was which... proving, in the mind of the test author, that Ann Coulter is the same as Adolf Hitler!

(Which proves to me, at least, that whatever the author is, he is definitely not a professor of mathematics...!)

Sager notes, "I got a 7 out of 14. I'm not sure what that says." In fact, all it proves is that people who don't like Ann Coulter are not likely to read Ann Coulter... hence they won't do well on this test. Ryan Sager guessed about the same as if he had simply flipped a coin.

But the real test is not whether someone who doesn't really like or read Coulter much can distinguish her statements from Adolf Hitler's (which a typical person is also not famliar with), especially when the latter are shorn of their most identifying feature: Hitler's racism and Jew hatred.

The real test is whether a person familiar with her body of work can pick Coulters out from the Hitlers. Me, for instance; I have read all of her books except her most recent, Godless -- and that only because hasn't seen fit to deliver it yet. How did I score?

I will answer below the "slither on;" and I warn you: I reveal one of the questions, but not who wrote it.

I got 13 out of 14 correct. I'm not very familiar with the writings of Adolf Hitler, having only read parts of Mein Kampf and none of his speeches; even so, some of the 14 quotations just didn't read anything like Ann Coulter, so I picked "Hitler" for those. Others sounded very much like her style of writing.

The only one I missed was a very, very short sentence fragment that I hesitated over but ultimately guessed wrong:

The foremost connoisseurs of this truth regarding the possibilities in the use of falsehood and slander have always been the liberals...

I will not tell you which way I guessed, of course; take the test yourself. But except for that one, I had no difficulty with any of them.

Now, were I randomly guessing, the odds of getting 13 out of 14 correct would be the same as the odds of tossing 14 coins and having 13 of them land "heads" (having picked heads in advance, of course). The odds for doing this randomly are very small... less than 0.009% -- that's 9 out of 100,000 times. So the safe bet is that there really is an obvious difference between Coulter and Hitler.

It's also important to note the context: it's very different to hate liberals, Communists, or Baptist preachers, who have all chosen to believe what they believe, than it is to hate Jews... who, as Hitler saw them, are defined by the possession of even a single drop of "Jew blood," with no choice allowed.

It's nowhere near as bad to write, "the foremost connoisseurs of this truth regarding the possibilities in the use of falsehood and slander have always been the liberals," as it would be to write "the foremost connoisseurs of this truth regarding the possibilities in the use of falsehood and slander have always been the Jews." The first is extreme but acceptable; the second is absolutely beyond the pale. (And if you don't know why, then this conversation serves no purpose.)

By stripping Hitlerian ideas of their racism and Jew hatred, you strip out their very Hitlerness. It's yet another example of the liberal tendency to redefine a word (Hitlerian, in this case) to point at a much wider range of subject... yet still rely upon the frisson of the original meaning to slander innocent targets. It's like saying, "polluting the environment is like murdering Mother Earth... should we allow murderers to escape the gallows?"

In any case, take the test; it's fun. But know what you're actually testing: not how close Ann Coulter is to Adolf Hitler, but rather how familiar you are with the writing style of each.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 22, 2006, at the time of 11:49 PM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

June 9, 2006

Battered Conservative Syndrome: Defending Ann

Atrocious Analogies , Scurrilous Scribblings , Wordwooze
Hatched by Dafydd

All right, folks; put on your manly gowns, gird up your loins, and go tell the Spartans: I'm about to defend Ann Coulter. And not by sweeping her words under the rug and blubbering "but she's a good girl in spite of the horrid things she says!"

No no, not Big Lizards style. I defend the very words she used and bat the ball right back across thet net at the liberals and their conservative "enablers."

But first, let's jump in the wayback machine and speed back through the ages to 1991. Connie Chung had just had her special on breast cancer the year earlier, in which she first floated the meme -- with never a shred of scientific evidence -- that silicone breast implants cause breast cancer.


Oh just read on, for heaven's sake.

We are the evidence!

In 1991, Oprah Winfrey had a show on the topic, and she invited a spokesman from Dow Corning, against which the anti-breast-implant mob had already begun to file the thousands of lawsuits that were to drive the company into bankruptcy just a few years later. What Oprah did not tell the spokesman was that the entire audience had been packed with women who had gotten breast implants, gotten breast cancer, and believed with the fervor of the mad that the one caused the other.

This was the first time I encountered what, fifteen years later, Ann Coulter would call "the Left's doctrine of infallibility," "using their grief to make a political point while preventing anyone from responding." (The link is to a transcript of Coulter's appearance on the Today Show with Matt Lauer; tuck it away in your grey matter, we'll come back to it at the end of this post.)

The premise of these Oprah women was that, since they suffered from a terrible disease, therefore any pronouncement they made about its cause was not open to argument.

It made no difference what the Dow spokesman said; they could not care less about the scientific evidence he cited. He noted, as his basic point, that if silicone breast implants were in any way implicated in breast cancer, then the rate of such cancer among women who had silicone breast implants would necessarily have to be higher than among women who did not have them.

Any rational human being should be able to understand that much. You don't need a PhD in oncological research. If smoking is implicated in lung cancer, then smokers should have a higher rate of lung cancer than non-smokers... and by golly, they do; much higher. That is why no serious medical researcher in the last forty years has disputed the point: the statistical argument is unanswerable.

Curiously, however, women with silicone breast implants have an identical rate of breast cancer as women who have saline implants or women with no implants at all. There is no difference; a hundred studies have shown this, and not a single one has shown the opposite. This is almost irrefutable evidence that there is no connection.

When the Dow guy brought this out, the women responded by booing. One leapt to her feet and shouted, "nobody ever studied me! Why don't you study me?" And the mass cheered in response, just as they might have cheered a coherent argument.

Then, in a surreal display that brought to mind Franz Kafka (or George Orwell), they actually rose in near unison and began chanting "we are the evidence, we are the evidence!" Whenever the Dow spokesman tried to speak, he was shouted down. He was accused of not caring about them. Women stood and burst into tears, accused him of "harassment" because he dared to defend Dow Corning's product.

Thus the infallibility of grief in action: these women suffered a tragic loss -- and that immunizes their every pronouncement from response.

A decorated war veteran who lost three limbs in the Vietnam War

Flash forward a few years, to the 2002 senatorial re-election campaign of Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA) against Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).

During the election, Chambliss raised the issue that Cleland was too liberal for the state of Georgia; to make that point, Chambliss aired some hard-hitting ads saying that Cleland's policies -- in particular, his opposition to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security -- benefitted terrorists and dictators, like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. As the names were mentioned, the Chambliss ad showed brief images of their faces:

The ad says that Cleland does not have the "courage to lead" at a time when "America faces terrorists and extremist dictators." The evidence? Cleland voted against the president's version of the still-pending Homeland Security agency 11 times.

Now, the point is arguable; many Republicans didn't like the idea of the new department as well, calling it "just another layer of bureaucracy" and "shuffling boxes around the org chart." But Cleland did not try to argue it... instead, he and his surrogates in the antique media swiftly trotted out the point that he was a decorated Vietnam veteran who has lost three limbs:

Cleland, a decorated war veteran who lost three limbs in the Vietnam War, blasted the ad, accusing his GOP rival, Rep. C. Saxby Chambliss, of trying to wrest political advantage from the war on terrorism and the impending conflict with Iraq. "Accusing me of being soft on Homeland Security and Osama bin Laden is the most vicious exploitation of a national tragedy and attempt at character assassination I have ever witnessed," the senator said in a statement.

The infallibility of grief, take 2.

Of course, Cleland did not actually lose his legs and part of one arm "in the Vietnam War;" he lost them during the war, in a stupid accident: he was hopping out of a helicopter that was taking him and other soldiers on a "beer run," and a grenade slipped either from his own vest or someone else's. He bent over to pick it up, and it exploded. His grievous injuries were not attained in combat; and indeed, none of his decorations were for that incident (he, personally, never claimed they were; but he, personally, also never corrected the record when others claimed Cleland lost his limbs in combat).

The meme was launched, not just by the Washington Post but virtually every other newspaper, magazine, and television network: Saxby Chambliss, how dare you question the patriotism of a guy who lost three limbs?

The club of grief

The phenomenon Coulter describes is far more despicable than anything she has said in attacking it. "The infallibility of grief" is used to silence opposition by exploiting basic human decency.

Among con artists, there are two kinds: those who exploit human greed by tricking their marks into thinking they can con someone else (like the "dead millionaire Nigerian dicatator" spam) -- and those who exploit human pity by pretending to some tragedy that causes the decent to want to help them out (the classic "my rented baby is hungry, can you give me $5 for some baby food?" scam).

The latter are much more repulsive; if a greedy guy thinks he's scamming someone else and gets fleeced himself, who cares? He got what was coming to him. But to rip someone off by attacking his empathy and goodness not only punishes the victim for his goodness, it also makes him cynical -- and makes it that much harder for people who really are in trouble to get help. Once bitten, twice shy.

But those who practice the infallibility of grief scam are even worse

  • They affect the much larger arena of public policy via irrational appeals to emotion;
  • They twist tragedy for their own ends;
  • They pervert the deaths of their own loved ones (recall the funeral of Sen. Paul Wellstone);
  • And they create backlashes against those who really have suffered great tragedy, but have chosen not to use grief as a weapon... a backlash that is itself exploited by the "griefarazzi" as a weapon against the Right.

Coulter argues -- and I completely agree -- that by using their grief as a club to batter their opponents into silence, they have willfully and irrevocably forfeited the right ever again to use it as a shield.

"Mother" Sheehan (as she likes to be called, aping the religious without actually stooping to practice religion) has been relentless in retailing the death of her son Casey for political purposes wholly at odds with what he, himself believed. By using the doctrine of the infallibility of grief as an offensive weapon, she has forefeited any right to fall back on her grief when her politics are attacked.

So has Michael Berg, who has taken to the airwaves to argue that President Bush, not Musab Zarqawi, is responsible for the beheading of his son, Nick Berg. Look what Bush made Zarqawi do!

His only call for making such judgments is his certificate of authenticity as a man who suffered a terrible tragedy. Berg uses victimhood as a badge of authority to batter down any response under a sledge hammer of faux guilt: how dare you defend Bush against my attacks? I lost my son!

And now at last this brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Ann Coulter vs. the Jersey Girls.

Enjoying their husbands' deaths

Here is what Coulter wrote in her newest book, Godless, that has provoked such a fury of denunciation... not just from the left, but from the right as well:

These self-obsessed women seem genuinely unaware that 9-11 was an attack on our nation and acted like as if the terrorist attack only happened to them. They believe the entire country was required to marinate in their exquisite personal agony. Apparently, denouncing Bush was part of the closure process....

These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparazzies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much.

Very hard words; but I stick up for Coulter even here. Read above: the Jersey Girls have used their grief as an offensive weapon against Republicans and in support of the candidacy of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA, 100%)... and that means that by their own actions, they forfeit the right to use their personal tragedy as a shield against attack.

But who are the "Jersey Girls?"

The Jersey Girls or Jersey Widows (Kristin Breitweiser, Patty Casazza, Lorie Van Auken, and Mindy Kleinberg) are four women from New Jersey whose husbands were killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks....

The Jersey Widows testified for hearing led by congresswoman Cynthia McKinney on July 22, 2005 [2]. In Lorie Auken's statement she said this of the 9/11 Commission Report:

And finally, without compromising our national security, it would have reported all of its findings, with its redactions blacked out and submitted to the American people. In essence, the Commission could have produced a final product where the resulting conclusions and recommendations could be trusted. Instead, at the end of the day, what we got were some statements that truly insulted the intelligence of the American people, violated our loved ones’ memories, and might end up hurting us, one day soon.

One such statement is that 9/11 was a ‘failure of imagination’. A failure of whose imagination? What exactly does that mean? When you have a CIA director with his hair on fire, a system blinking red, 52 FAA warnings, an August 6th, 2001, PDB entitled ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the United States’, leads on several 9/11 hijackers including Alhazmi, Almihdhar and Marwan Al-Shehi, warnings from many foreign governments, a Phoenix memo warning of Islamic extremists taking flying lessons, the arrest of would-be terrorist Zacarias Moussauoui, facts imparted to one agent, Agent Frasca at the RFU at the FBI, 9/11 was truly a failure alright.

What else did they do? Was that it? Not by a long shot. From the Today Show exchange, here is Coulter on the Jersey Girls' politicking... facts which none of Coulter's critics have troubled to dispute. (This is a hallmark of the infallibility of grief, by the way: Cleland didn't try to argue that his votes against the DHS were right... he simply denied Chambliss the right to criticize him at all because of the tragedy Cleland suffered in Vietnam.)

They were cutting commercials for Kerry. They were using their grief to make a political point while preventing anyone from responding.

In a Hannity and Colmes segment yesterday (no transcript, I just watched it), she elaborated, noting the television shows and magazines that had featured them, the Democratic fundraisers they attended. I myself recall them sitting on some panel on terrorism, as if they were experts by virtue of grief. The Jersey Girls were not "grieving widows," for they were not grieving... not unless, as Coulter put it, "denouncing Bush was part of the closure process."

They are not grieving widows; they are crusading widows. The difference is colossal.

Matt Lauer's snide questions are almost tailor-made to prove Coulter's point, for not once does he ever bother responding to anything she says; instead, he spent the entire interview subtlely undermining her moral credibility and her decency for daring to challenge the crusading widows in the first place:

His first words, before even reading what she wrote:

  • Do you believe everything in the book, or do you put some things in there just to cater to your base?

After reading the excerpt where she concludes "I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much”:

  • Because they dare to speak out? [At least, thank God, he didn't say "dare to speak truth to power." -- the Mgt.]

Here are the rest of his "responses" to Coulter:

  • So grieve but grieve quietly?
  • By the way, they also criticized the Clinton administration. [Lauer gives no examples.]
  • So if you lose a husband, you no longer have the right to have a political point of view?
  • Well apparently you are allowed to respond to them. [Said while he attacked her for responding to them.]
  • What I’m saying is I don’t think they have ever told you, you can’t respond.
  • No. I think it’s a dramatic statement. “These broads are millionaires stalked by stalked by grief-parazzies”? “I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s deaths so much”?
  • The book is called “Godless: The Church of Liberalism.” Ann Coulter, always fun to have you here.

There you go: content-free invective. Lauer never responds, refutes, debunks; he just denounces. This is practically a classroom demonstration of the infallibility of grief at work.

In the same article in Editor & Publisher, the Jersey Girls themselves (plus Monica Gabrielle) respond (they get the last word, of course; Coulter is not allowed to respond to their response). Amazingly, their response also reinforces Coulter's original point:

We did not choose to become widowed on September 11, 2001. The attack, which tore our families apart and destroyed our former lives, caused us to ask some serious questions regarding the systems that our country has in place to protect its citizens. Through our constant research, we came to learn how the protocols were supposed to have worked. Thus, we asked for an independent commission to investigate the loopholes which obviously existed and allowed us to be so utterly vulnerable to terrorists. Our only motivation ever was to make our Nation safer. Could we learn from this tragedy so that it would not be repeated?

They then append a list of eight Democratic-Party talking points, the exact attacks that Minority Leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) make against President Bush and the Republican Congress.

Ask yourself this question: what reason is offered for us to accept the analysis of the Jersey Girls about what's wrong with our response to 9/11? Why listen to them, instead of (for a wild example) Big Lizards?

The only reason put forward is that 9/11 "tore our families apart and destroyed our former lives."

That's it. If they conducted "constant research," they certainly didn't demonstrate any in their response, nor on any of the media lollapalloozas they basked in for months: the television appearances, the spread in Vanity Fair, the Kerry campaign rallies and fundraisers they attended, or the commissions where they spoke.

Their sole authority to declaim upon Bush's failures is that they lost their husbands on September 11th; their sole response to critics of their political activities is "we did not choose to become widowed on September 11, 2001."

But they certainly chose the path forward from that point. They buttered their bread; now they refuse to sleep in it.

Battered Conservative Syndrome

Yet rather than stand up to the bullying use of victimhood as a weapon, many pundits and bloggers on the right have instead joined the liberal dogpile on Ann Coulter. The response of conservatives matches that of Matt Lauer: who cares whether Coulter's critique is right or wrong? Those poor women have suffered! How dare she add to their grief?

They join the liberals in attacking Coutler for malfeasance of rhetoric; in this, conservatives are showing classic symptoms of Battered Spouse Syndrome. Huddled in a defensive crouch, they labor to prove that they are too decent, they are so sympathetic -- they attack Coulter to prove their own chivalric honor. They become "enablers" of liberal griefarazzi.

Many conservatives have let themselves be ensnared by the "infallibility of grief" gambit. Like suckers who give money to the woman with the baby she rents by the hour, conservatives who attack Ann Coulter, without regard to the point she makes, prove the utter truth of that point: the reflexive, Lorelei power of the whimper of whipped dogs. And like Odysseus, if they don't stop their ears or lash themselves to the mast, they will wreck upon the rocks.

The Left wallows in that whimper, in the infallibility of grief; they use it to bypass argument, substitute for evidence, and take the place of moral courage. To argue with the grief-mongers makes ordinary, decent people feel like they just yelled at Grandma and made her cry. And the Left shamelessly exploits that basic human guilt.

I grew up in a Jewish family, and I had that trick played on me too many times. My family and culture burned out that autoresponse circuit in me; sorry, but like Jo Dee Messina, my give-a-damn's busted:

You can say you've got issues, you can say you're a victim
It's all your parents fault, after all you didn't pick 'em
Maybe somebody else has got time to listen:
My give-a-damn's busted

If you're a human being, you feel sorry for people who have suffered great tragedy. But if you're a reasoning human being, you don't allow empathy to leap up your throat and strangle your brain: you control it; you take a step back and ask whether We are the evidence ever means anything more than "Shut up," she explained.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 9, 2006, at the time of 5:42 PM | Comments (67) | TrackBack

June 1, 2006

Haditha vs. Abu Ghraib

Atrocious Analogies , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I want to make perfectly clear what I'm talking about in this post: in the real world, the allegations (no proof or even evidence yet) of what was done at Haditha are of course infinitely worse than what we know happened at Abu Ghraib. A series of deliberate murders of children, women, and non-combatant men is obviously far more horrific than mere humiliation.

That aside, let's turn to the lesser question of politics... which could turn out to be of more moment than the reality.

The politics of Haditha may well determine whether we continue in the Global War on Terrorism. If the anti-war, anti-Bush maniacs can spin this into a Nuremburg trial, where the entire military is indicted for war crimes and atrocities, then the 110th Congress (which begins next January) may severely curtail the war effort... and if there is a Democratic president in 2009, he or she may simply pull us out, willy-nilly. So as sad as it may be to admit, the politics and the policy are inextricably intertwined.

So it's fair to ask, what will the politics of Haditha be?

If a thorough investigation ends up exonerating the Marines, then I believe there will be little problem: the usual suspects (here, in Europe, and in the Middle East) will scream cover-up; but theyr'e always crying "wolf!" anyway. We've already factored in that reaction.

So for analytical purposes, the only case that needs to be looked at is the awful possibility that the charges are at least partly true: that some Marines did, indeed, deliberately kill civilians, possibly even including children.

I am not saying that happened; I am saying that is the only case where we really have to ponder how it may affect the war effort. Any lesser result of the investigation will have no particular effect at all.

Surprisingly, I believe that even if the essential Murtha charge turns out to be true, Haditha will not have as big an impact on public support for the war as Abu Ghraib did. We have spent so much time thinking about the substance, which is much worse than Abu Ghraib, that we've failed adequately to address the politics... which would be much less destructive than Abu Ghraib.

I know a lot of you are incredulous, but walk a few steps with me first.

What was it that caught our attention most about Abu Ghraib? It wasn't concern for the prisoners; we know they're most likely terrorists or at least terrorist supporters. They have killed innocents, and not many Americans care one way or another if they are tormented.

It was not the claim that prisoners were being beaten or threatened with dogs; we all understand that imprisonment is force, and war is deadly force -- and sometimes, those who administer force go too far. We punish them when they do; but we also understand why they did.

No... what stunned and infuriated voters was the sheer perversion of those American troops. Stripping Iraqi prisoners naked? Dressing them in women's clothing? Having a woman dance around and jeer at -- and publicly fondle -- their genitals? This is just weird, disgusting, sick, lurid stuff that belongs in the pages of the National Enquirer, not the playbook of military prison guards.

It was creepy: one of the rumors was that Lynndie England spent a lot of time prancing around the prison nude herself... not only in front of prisoners, taunting them, but the other American soldiers themselves. This claim of exhibitionism, whether true or false, is the kind of abnormal sexuality that preys upon the American sense of decency and morality. We desperately do not want to think of our soldiers as the sort of people who hang out in public restrooms and expose themselves. Any scandal that forces us to do so -- Tailhook, for instance -- outrages the American people more than almost anything imaginable.

It's weird; it's decadent. Worse... it's French.

Americans can understand mere murder, but sensationalism and sexual depravity freak us out. Even after being released from prison, we make convicted flashers register whenever they move into a community; but not criminals convicted of mere murder.

Logical or not, that's how we look at it. Maybe Europeans are different; certainly the U.N. appears to be, considering how blasé they are about allegations that "peacekeepers" and aid workers in Africa forced famine victims to give them sex in exchange for food.

Such debauchery and decadence outrages us far worse, I believe, than would a scandal where some Marines might have snapped under the pressure and turned into the sort of "Ghengis Khan" barbarians of the fevered imagination of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. (Such people certainly were found occasionally in Vietnam; but there is not a shred of evidence John Kerry ever met any among the Swift Boat crews.)

And for that very reason, I believe the public will be far more willing to accept that such things happen in war: it's only the tiniest of minorities (perhaps five Marines out of 950,000 military personnel who have cycled through Iraq, 0.0005%); they will receive the maximum punishment if convicted -- probably death by hanging or firing squad; yet we still must move on with the war, not throw in the towel because some mentally deranged individuals killed civilians without reason.

I do not believe that Haditha will have the same grip on the American psyche that Abu Ghraib did (and still does today). Not because it's not as bad; it's worse in the cosmic sense. But because it's a more understandable kind of "bad."

Any honest person who isn't a dyed-in-the-mud pacifist can think of circumstances where he or she would contemplate committing murder. But how many Americans can even imagine themselves stripping prisoners naked and lovingly slipping women's panties over their heads?

Murder is evil. Abu Ghraib was grotesque.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 1, 2006, at the time of 6:21 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

March 30, 2006

Two Walls That Pass In the Night

Atrocious Analogies , Immigration Immolations , Israel Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

"Atrocious Analogies" is the new topic of the day, mostly sparked by Captain Ed's otherwise excellent post George Will: Ich Bin Ein Ost-Berliner? -- both the atrocious analogy he accuses George Will of making, and the atrocious analogy that Ed himself makes!

Cap'n's "analogy" has been raised by a number of people opposed to the Senate J-Com's immigration plan and supportive of a "wall" (or fence) along the American southern border to keep out illegals, and that makes it worth discussing.

Ed's post is actually good; I especially like this point, noting the need for much stronger border control:

No illegal will enter a program that costs him significant fines and back taxes when all he has to do is stay quiet and keep crossing the border in both directions as he sees fit. As for learning English, that would certainly be a novel approach; we don't even make our legal immigrants do that any more, as evidenced by ballots in a plethora of languages and government-sponsored translators at all level of public services. [Emphasis added]

As you know -- or should, if you've been reading -- I too support such a wall, and for the same reasons Ed does (and George Will does, too); so my objection to Captain Ed's analogy is not ideological. It's literary: I think the Captain Ed analogy squashes conversation nearly as badly as does Will's, and both should be tossed in the dustbin of rhetorical history.

All right, all right, I'll tell you what they are. You demanding readers take all the mystery out of blogposts!

George Will makes his conservative case for the moderate approach to immigration reform, giving enough room for hard-line enforcement while arguing for eventual absorption of the illegals already inside the US. However, he starts out with an almost unforgivable analogy that will have border-enforcement readers seeing red before they ever get to the rest of his arguments:

America, the only developed nation that shares a long -- 2,000-mile -- border with a Third World nation, could seal that border. East Germany showed how: walls, barbed wire, machine gun-toting border guards in towers, mine fields, large, irritable dogs. And we have modern technologies that East Germany never had: sophisticated sensors, unmanned surveillance drones, etc.

That is, of course, the allegedly atrocious analogy that George Will made. Actually, it's not really atrocious: it is merely unfortunate. It wrongly invokes the image of a prison-country like the Soviet Union (and its satellite, East Germany), which repugnant image blinds otherwise rational folks like Captain Ed to the point Will is really trying to make... which is simply that such brutal force is what you need to prevent a large number of people from passing a wall -- it makes no difference which direction.

I'm no great admirer of Will; I think he's the most overrated supposed "thinker" of the supposed "conservative" persuasion. And this is one reason why: he is so enamored of the sound of his own typing that he really doesn't spend much time thinking at all.

My own dam analogy is much better: building a wall to stop immigration without also building a gate through the wall for the decent, law-abiding, and hard-working is like building a dam across a river -- without building a spillway for the water.

The lake you create will rise and rise, until eventually it will overtop the dam (a word I just learned recently in the brouhaha about the New Orleans levees), causing a horrific cascade over the top that will likely cause a catastrophic breach (a word I already knew). The water must go somewhere; it won't flow back upriver.

In reality, we really are talking about what George Will suggested: machine guns, minefields, razor-wire, helicopters, a huge military force diverted to the border (the Border Patrol cannot handle it, even at ten times its present size)... and a huge number of dead children, women, and men whose only crime was -- they wanted to live in "freedom." And it won't work anyway: there is no wall so strong that a million people pushing won't knock it down.

But wait, ab Hugh (I hear you ask), you said you support the wall. What gives?

I support a wall -- but only as part of a comprehensive solution that also includes three things:

  1. A guest-worker program to temporarily admit those who just want to work here then migrate back across the border again;
  2. A clearly defined path to citizenship -- neither arbitrary, nor racially or nationality based -- for those decent, honest, hard-working immigrants who want to live the American ideal;
  3. Some mechanism to regularize those immigrants among the 12 million illegals who actually want to become citizens and at least register and regulate the rest, who only want to be guest workers.

(Note that I am now clearly separating 1 from 2.)

Once we have a door that the deserving can open, I have no objection to using Blackhawks and Predators on the felons still climbing through the windows.

I have an analogy for you, I hear you suggest: how about the walls separating Gaza and he West Bank from Israel? Aren't you in favor of those, too? Isn't that the real analogy?

Funny you should mention that. Here is what Captain Ed wrote:

Israel's border with the West Bank and Gaza provide a much clearer analogy. First and foremost, it's built to keep people out, not create a nation of prisoners. It also provides deterrence from illegal crossings, forcing Palestinians towards well-manned checkpoints where security reaches maximum efficiency. The idea is not to kill Palestinian crossers, but to keep them from trying to enter Israel illegally at all. And, by the way, it works; it has been the single most important tool the Israelis had in ending the intifadas. (And by the way, it's hard to argue that Israel isn't a developed nation, that the Palestinian territories aren't a Third World area, or that their border is less significant to Israel's national defense than our southern border.)

But it's easy to argue the one terrible flaw that spoils everything about this analogy: there are no hordes of decent, law-abiding, and hard-working Palestinians desperate to emmigrate to Israel. There is only one group of people trying to breach that wall: terrorists who want to butcher Jews by the thousands, if they only could, and drive them into the sea.

They let through a small number of day-workers, who must leave again at night. And that's pretty much it.

Israel protects its wall with soldiers, machine guns, and minefields... and it's perfectly proper to do so, since the only people likely to get killed are illegal combatants, terrorists, and mass murderers. There is no million people trying to knock down the Israeli "security fence;" there is a small group of a few hundred, and they're all people who deserve to die. (Yes, every human life has value; but sometimes, that "value" is a negative number.)

And that makes all the difference. A wall across our southern border may well work; I'm in favor of trying. But only under the circumstances I mentioned above. And in any event, there is no valid analogy at all with the wall that Israel built (is building), because they need only keep out bad guys -- while we need not only to do that but also to channel the hundreds of thousands of good guys. We need a dam with a spillway; Israel only needs a seawall.

There is one more atrocious analogy that I must highlight; again, it comes from Captain Ed's post -- and I really do like the post, if only the Captain (and George Will) would take better thought on their analogizing:

The rest of Will's column fares better, although I disagree with his emphasis on what will be an amnesty program in practice, if not in name.

A while back (I mean about twenty-five years ago) I read an article about "swinger" parties, which I must confess I know about only at second-hand, alas. Those are gatherings where a number of adults come to, well, copulate with each other in various permutations. The only money collected is whatever is necessary to buy the chips and soda (or whatever they drink at such places); the participants at the one in question were all middle-aged, middle-income folks who just liked sex a lot.

A politician was demanding that the city of Los Angeles ban such parties (in the city that contains Hollywood? fat chance!) And in the course of his argument to the LA City Council, he found occasion to declare that --

It's exactly like prostitution, except no money changes hands!

(I don't have the clipping in front of me, but the words are seared, seared in my brain. Along with another one that I'll reveal at the end.)

Captain, Captain... "amnesty" means a general pardon; and a "pardon" means to exempt from penalty, to let an offense pass without punishment.

It is impossible by definition for a program that fines lawbreakers to be an "amnesty" -- neither in name nor practice.

Folks can argue that the fines aren't stiff enough, or maybe that there should be prison time in some cases; but if punishment is meted out at all -- and a $2,000 fine is pretty stiff for such poor people -- then it ain't amnesty! (Even if the business pays it, then the business is being fined for the crime of hiring illegals.)

So let's either stuff the analogies back in the sack, or at least spend some time to come up with new ones that better fit the circumstances. These hoary, old cliches are bursting at the seams. Let's take the high road and win one for the Gipper, give it the old college try and put our thinking caps on. All's well that ends well!

(Oh, I almost forgot: back in 1984, I was at a conference on George Orwell at the Los Angeles World Science Fiction Convention. During the discussion of Orwell's chastisement of various leftist pamphleteers for their inelegant use of language, one anguished audience member leapt up and declared, "they're literally raping the language! They're literally raping the language!" Then he sat down again. Friend Lee and I were the only two spectators to burst out laughing.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 30, 2006, at the time of 4:53 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

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