Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Louder the Commercial, the Dumber They Think You Are

I have this theory about car ads on radio and TV. The louder and more obnoxious the advertisement, the dumber the dealer thinks his customers are. I now think that the same holds true for political campaign commercials.

When you hear about a commercial with a background of loud noises, and two announcers screaming phrases like "$99 down, $99 a month" over and over, or when you hear announcers screaming idiotic, mindless phrases like "All credit applications accepted", you know that you are listening to a commercial for a relatively inexpensive car, the type of car generally purchased on credit by someone at the lower end of the economic scale. Take the high-end cars like Mercedes or BMW. You will never hear commercials for these automobiles delivered in a screaming, obnoxious fashion. Why not? Because the dealers know that the type of person who has worked hard enough to afford a decent car is going to be turned off by a commercial that screams at them.

That brings us to Kerry’s recent speeches and ads. It is clear from the shrillness, the loudness, and the fraudulent claims that the Kerry camp is working overtime to appeal to the less intelligent voters out there. Case in point? The recent idiocy over those "missing" explosives in Iraq. This was going to be the blockbuster story that sent the Bush campaign reeling into the ropes the day before the election. What a scenario! The International Atomic Energy Agency warns Bush that there are 380 tons of explosives in one particular facility in Iraq. Now we learn that the explosives are gone! They've disappeared! Bush didn't guard those explosives! After he got that warning from the IAEA he let those explosives disappear! What a mess! Can't this guy do anything right?

Let’s do a little reality check. Democrats, the next few minutes will be painful for you! When the 82nd Airborne arrived at the site to secure the 380 tons of explosives, they were not there. Gone. Vanished. The explosives were removed before the first American boots hit Iraqi sand. Saddam left about 1,000,000 tons of weapons when he ran to his spider hole. We have destroyed about 500,000 tons. The 380 tons that are "missing" constitute 0.38% of the weapons Saddam had, and 0.76% of the weapons that coalition forces have already disposed of. So, we have two realities here. First, the amount of explosives we're talking about is small - less than one coffee bean in a one pound bag. Second, the only way George Bush could have secured these weapons was to step up his invasion plans and move in to Iraq before he did. Is that what Kerry is suggesting he should have done?

As soon as the New York Times ran its story the Kerry campaign produced a television ad. Here's the script:
"The obligation of the Commander in Chief is to keep our country safe. In Iraq George Bush has overextended our troops and now failed to secure 380 tons of deadly explosives, the kinds used for attacks in Iraq and for terrorist bombings. His Iraq misjudgments put our soldiers at risk and make our country less secure, and all he offers is more of the same."

There you go. That's Kerry's $99 down, $99 a month moment. He knows his ad is an insult to anyone with a modicum of intelligence. He also is fully aware that at this point in the election the voters he is most likely to sway are those who are uninformed and those incapable of being informed. In other words, the ignorant. So if you like being lied to, manipulated, insulted, condescended to, and having your intelligence insulted, go ahead and vote for Kerry!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Lame Euphemisms

Okay, here's something a little less political and much more lighthearted. This past weekend I took a short course in ACU's Conflict Resolution program. The class, "Conflict in the Workplace" mainly dealt with avoiding the costs of litigation. That got me thinking of all the lame euphemisms we use in an effort to be "politically correct" (also a lame euphemism). So enjoy, and add some if you can think of any.

After Janet Jackson’s bare breast at the Superbowl, "wardrobe malfunction" is the euphemism of the year, a staggering achievement in language distortion. Some medical euphemisms now appear in the fine print of your hospital bill. You may see charges for "disposable mucus recovery systems" (Kleenex), "thermal therapy" (a bag of ice) and an "oral administration fee" (the charge for handing you a pill in a paper cup). How about these terms for firing workers: "facility and cost rationalizations," "dehiring," "normal involuntary attrition," and "negative employee retention." In its science teaching standards, the state of Georgia changed the word "evolution" to "biological changes over time," then backtracked to "evolution" when protests arose.

The Bush administration contributed "temporary steel safeguard measures" (tariffs), "healthy forests" (more logging) plus "earned legalization," "regularization" and "normalization" (amnesty for illegal immigrants - sorry, “undocumented workers”). Another political euphemism is "managed" or "fair" trade (protectionism). Remember the under-the-table funds that went to members of the International Olympic Committee when Salt Lake City was picked as an Olympic site? They weren't bribes, they were "payments to encourage good feelings about Salt Lake."

In some Canadian Catholic churches priests are called "mass presiders." Even the military uses lame euphemisms: "Body bags" (Vietnam war) and "human remains pouches" (the Gulf War) are now "transfer tubes" in Iraq, a term like "choice" for abortion that successfully eliminates any hint that death might be involved. The British have a new word for military retreat, "exfiltration." This is not a great euphemism, but it sounds lots better than "running away” (the French phrase for retreat). China's economic expansion under one-party rule gave rise to several euphemisms, including "cloaked capitalism" and "soft Leninism." Why not "totalitarian freedom"? Many universities use a dirty trick to control free speech on campus. They announce small "free-speech zones," thus establishing 99 percent of their campuses as places where free speech is in some form prohibited.

The "war on terror" is a widely overlooked euphemism. "Terror" isn't a party to the war, militant Islam is. Terror is their tactic. Reuters famously refuses to call terrorists "terrorists" because the news service thinks it's a subjective term. The BBC says its reporters may not call Saddam Hussein a former dictator. Reporters must refer to him as "the deposed former president." No word yet on whether Hitler can be called a dictator. Oops, make that "the former legally selected leader of the Third Reich."


Friday, October 01, 2004

"A Time for Choosing"

As I have watched the political conventions, and Thursday night's debate, I would like to offer this gem as something to think about. It is Ronald Reagan's first big speech, delivered at the GOP convention of 1964. It is priceless, especially the last paragraph.

"A Time for Choosing"
Reagan 1964

I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this. It's time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, "We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government." This idea? that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream-the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, "The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits." The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.

Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, "What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power." But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector. Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we're denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate. They tell us we're always "against," never "for" anything.

We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem. However, we are against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments. We are for aiding our allies by sharing our material blessings with nations which share our fundamental beliefs, but we are against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world. We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward I restoring for our children the American Dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him.... But we can not have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure. Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return to traditional proportionate taxation? . . . Today in our country the tax collector's share is 37 cents of -very dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp. Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize that the doctor's fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can't socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he'll eat you last.

If all of this seems like a great deal of trouble, think what's at stake. We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation. They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. Winston Churchill said that "the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits-not animals." And he said, "There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty."

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.