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Tilting at Windmills

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June 29, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

TALKIN' ABOUT LANGUAGE....If I were commenting on someone else's book review, I suppose I'd excerpt the most incendiary paragraph I could find and then hang it out to dry all by itself. I guess, then, that it's only fair to do the same to my own review in this month's Mother Jones of George Lakoff's latest book, Whose Freedom?:

The result is richly ironic: A man whos made his reputation advising liberals on how to use language more effectively has written a turgid and nearly unreadable book that rests on hundreds of short, disjointed sections and dozens of long bullet lists that demonstrate how, if you strain hard enough, commonplace concepts can all be rewritten in a way that includes the words free or freedom. And Lakoffs lists make it clear that he cant frame his way out of a paper bag. Freedom judges as a replacement for judicial activists? Spare me. And when it comes to the most salient topic in all of contemporary politics, the liberal response to the war on terror, hes just stumped. In the entire book, Lakoff devotes only one platitude-filled paragraph to the subject.

As with all breezy blog excerpts, this makes a lot more sense if you read the stuff that comes before and after. And lest you think I'm just being cranky, I did like Geoffrey Nunberg's book about language, Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show. "Sparkling," I called it, "a witty and authoritative guide to several decades of political linguistic history."

Kevin Drum 2:23 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (66)

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Comments

Mmmmmmm...sushi!

What's the big deal?

Posted by: MaryCh on June 29, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

I heard Lakoff on NPR recently, ostensibly discussing blogs and their effect on politics, and he is a certifiable idiot. He can say less using more words than anybody I've heard in a long time. On the show, he sucked the air out of what would have been an interesting discussion between the NPR host, Ezra Klein, and some conservative woman blogger.

Posted by: David in NY on June 29, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Cut and run

http://www.sfgate.com/columnists/fiore/

Posted by: Strawberry on June 29, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Ezra Klein was not the NPR host, but one of four participants. (How should I have punctuated that last sentence?)

Posted by: David in NY on June 29, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Good read Kevin, it's great to see another incompetent liberal taken down.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 29, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Advice to liberals:

Speak clearly, and carry a big stick.

I think whenever confronted by a Republican't talking point, the Democrat should repeat it three times and call the Republican't a puppet:

"Cut and run, Cut and run, Cut and run. All Congressman X can do is move his lips while his ventriloquist Karl Rove mouths the platitudes. He hasn't had an orginal thought in years. This is what passes for debate in the Republican't Party [Hey, if they call us the "Democrat" Party, we can call them the Republican't Party.] Until they can offer a substantive plan rather than just calling us names, they don't deserve a response."

Posted by: Cal Gal on June 29, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

I find the liberal obsession over "framing" and "language" hilarious. It's never the actual ideas policies that are at fault for losing elections.

Posted by: Homer on June 29, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

David in NY, just leave off the last comma and it is clear that Ezra Klein is not an appositive. For a list, the comma before the conjuction is optional.

Posted by: k on June 29, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Homer, Democrats talk about framing, but Republicans actually do it. Remember Freedom Fries?

But I've now remembered that Lakoff's problem is that he has no idea how to practice what he preaches, although he can describe what Republicans do quite well. The terrifying thing about his NPR interview was that his most memorable lines were accounts of Republican framing. That is, he can describe what the opposition does, but he can't do the same thing with respect to Democratic positions. After hearing him on the radio, a naive listener would probably have been more attracted to Republican than Democratic positions.

Posted by: David in NY on June 29, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, k. That would have worked. Geez, I haven't heard the word "appositive" in forty-five years.

Posted by: David in NY on June 29, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

A whole lot of people of all political stripes get body piercings. Drink lattes. Drive Volvos.

As for the rest of the list: Spot. On.

Posted by: Birkel on June 29, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a ... Sushi-Eating... Left-Wing Freak Show. "Sparkling," I called it, "a witty and authoritative guide to several decades of political linguistic history.

There is nothing more leftie than eating sushi considering the Moonies distribute most of the stuff in this country.

Posted by: mark on June 29, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

"Freedom," jesus. Unemployment insurance = Employee Freedom Fund.

As if modern conservatives -- good little projecting closet authoritarians that they are -- aren't *scared shit* of it.

The freedom of Iraq to find its own path post-Saddam.

The freedom to actually *trust* our freakin' values to win out in the world because they happen to be resonate with more people than radical traditionalisms.

The freedom to let the economy actually grow jobs and increase wages without freaking out over inflation.

The freedom of our air and water from pollution. The freedom of our gloriously educated scientists and technologists just champing at the bit to do something about global warming and alternative fuels.

The freedom from a great big menacing, jealous, resentful collective superego that calls itself Traditional Moral Values.

As authoritarians who fear, loathe and exaggerate the averse consequences of spontaneity -- modern conservatives want jack to do with their favorite buzzword.

Heh. Maybe the ol' turgid muthafukka Lakoff has a point buried in there somewhere ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 29, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

If you make liberal a good word, all that name-calling by Republicans becomes free advertising.

And if you turn and run from the word liberal, you'll get shot in the back.

Pretty much the long and short of the matter.

Posted by: serial catowner on June 29, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Nice column Kevin.

Posted by: BRussell on June 29, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Nice, balanced review, Kevin! The excerpt, as you suggested, is far more incendiary than the rest of the piece.

Posted by: RSA on June 29, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Lakoff was all the rage a few months ago and so I read some of his articles and books. I even saw him speak at the Commonwealth Club here in SF.

I thought he was much better at analyzing conservative rhetoric than proposing useful techniques for liberals. His central frame for conservatives is the "strict father" which makes sense for a lot of their rhetoric. But his liberal counterpart is the "nurturant parent", which just makes me queazy.

I do think that cognitive science is useful, but almost always as an analytical tool and not a design tool.

Posted by: Dan on June 29, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

I think Lakoff is a smart guy who has spotted a real problem that he calls "framing." Unfortunately he is not at all good at coming up with solutions to the problem. Perhaps Nunberg is the go to guy for that.

Posted by: EmmaAnne on June 29, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Homer wrote: I find the liberal obsession over "framing" and "language" hilarious. It's never the actual ideas policies that are at fault for losing elections.

Actually, in 2000 and 2004 it was Republican criminality and fraud and the deliberate disenfranchisement of thousands of voters that was "at fault" for Bush gaining and retaining political office that the Democratic candidate actually won.

Having said that, there is no such thing as "actual ideas" that exist independently of language and framing.

And as others pointed out, if you find liberal / Democratic discussion of "framing" to be "hilarious", then you must really roll on the floor in hysterics at the documents that the Republican leadership have distributed to Republican politicians over the years, instructing them on exactly what words and phrases they should use to "frame" the issues the way Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich et al want them framed, based on the results of focus groups, polls, etc.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 29, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

For crissakes, from Plato to Orwell, people have pointed out how vague words like "freedom" can be twisted to mean almost anything. "Work Makes Freedom" was over the gates of Auschwitz.

What liberals should do is come up with real solutions to real problems of real people. Then figure out how to discribe this.

Posted by: Thinker on June 29, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

If you read Lakoff's book Elephant carefully, you can find some more or less believable analysis there. There certainly is a lot of authoritarianism in the conservative approach. I think Lakoff misses a little of the conservative tendency to give in to anxiety. It is also true that Lakoff lacks the talent to "reframe" in a workable way. This would require thinking more deeply about what liberalism really is and wants to do, and less word play. Lakoff actually makes that point and then fails to come through with the goods.

At the core, Lakoff's point that political policy positions depend on one's underlying view of how the world works makes sense. He just doesn't understand how to deal with the problem.

Posted by: Bob G on June 29, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

I also have to wonder: Don't people get sick of these silly-sounding catch phrases? As Kevin rolled his eyes at "freedom judges," don't people start to roll their eyes at silly conservative phraseology? Maybe NOT using such silly language would attract more voters than just using liberal ones.

Posted by: BRussell on June 29, 2006 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

There is nothing more leftie than eating sushi considering the Moonies distribute most of the stuff in this country. Posted by: mark

Maybe in flyover land.

Posted by: JeffII on June 29, 2006 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

David in NY, re punctuation of first post:

You could have listed the NPR host's name after the words "NPR host John Doe, Ezra Klein. ..." Or course, out of fairness, you should then identify the other guest by name. Or you could have said: "the NPR host and guests Ezra Klein and ..."

K's suggestion will also work; it's also correct AP style if you want to phrase the entire sentence exactly that way.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on June 29, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

I love the liberal comment "flyover land".

Denigrating "flyover land" IS the reason they continue to lose elections, and they still have yet to figure that out.

Posted by: Jay on June 29, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Lakoff's got one good idea, the importance of framing, but there's not much to it after that.

But as for Kevin's mantra, "the most salient topic in all of contemporary politics, the liberal response to the war on terror"........I'd argue that it'd be more important to get the pompous posturing liberal hawk weenies to quit repeating this nonsense.

All the "leftie" media (NYT, WP, and the execrable TNR) and almost all of the big leftie bloggers, should just shut up, change their underwear, and go suck their thumbs in the corner. Why do they have this fetish, this paranoia, that because there exists some Muslim guys who want to do you in, that these kinds of foreign policy responses are warranted? Get some perspective, punk ass bitches.

Posted by: luci on June 29, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

"Hey, Homer, Democrats talk about framing, but Republicans actually do it."

Democrats are too influenced by academic and bureaucratic ways of talking, and they can't really make a vivid case for anything. Lakoff is trying to tell us that, but he's as bad as the rest.

"Framing" is "spin", pretty much. Republicans have hired some of the geniuses of spin.

Posted by: humble blogger on June 29, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

And I thought freedom fries was pretty lame.

Posted by: minion of rove on June 29, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, SocraticGadfly. I didn't know who the host was, so I couldn't have done your first suggestion.

I've always been fond of that comma before the "and" in a series, although I think it's not the "modern" tendency. Had to unlearn it when adapting to legal style in the "bluebook" years ago, but preferred it, whether it makes sense or not. (I know. We don't write "ham, and eggs," so why should we write "bacon, ham, and eggs"? Because I like the looks of it, that's why.)

Posted by: David in NY on June 29, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Did you not read any of Lakoff's previous works? They're all pretty thick tomes, unless you count Elephant, which is the condensed Moral Politics.

He does do a very good job describing the differences between conservative world views and liberal world views. The debate comes in whether to pander to conservative world views or to reinforce liberal world views.

Posted by: KathyF on June 29, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

I think the opposition to Republicans and conservatism should think very hard about this subject. I have stopped using the word war and only use invasion and occupation when discussing America's involvement in Iraq. The adulterous former Speaker of the House from Georgia used words quite a bit to focus his political agenda and those of us who dislike conservatism need to use his example.

Posted by: Hostile on June 29, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

I agree Hostile. Instead of terrorists, I use the word serial killers and instead of the word liberals, I use idiots.

btw, that former speaker of the house from GA, will be your next POTUS. Which will make him just like Clinton, another adulterer in the WH.

Posted by: Jay on June 29, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Jay:

How can you be a "serial killer" if your first suicide belt sends you straight to Allah and those 72 white rais-uhh, virgins?

For conservative, my favorite replacement term is "repressed cocksucker" :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 29, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans = Party of Yuck

Democrats = Party of Yum

:)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 29, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

In his Mother Jones book review of Lakoff's and Nunberg's latest books, Kevin Drum wrote "Getting rid of Americas wobbly and Rube Goldberg-esque medical system and replacing it with an efficient universal health care service is something worth fighting for, for example, and its something that the language merchants could help with. But as with so many other issues, language isnt really whats holding us back. Backbone is. Republicans won the fight over health careand much morenot so much because of the language they employed but because they never gave upand thats the playbook Democrats should emulate."

Could be. But I think that framing is a big part of the story. Republicans have successfully created frames such as "big government" (which in their lying frame excludes the biggest discretionary government expense military and gestapo-like intrusions in our lives in the name of "homeland security") and they use the frame of "big government" to convince the public that single-payer health care could somehow be worse than what we have now.

Kevin, you may be right that Democratic leaders need more spine on this issue, but I don't think the issue is going to move politically without some serious work on framing the issues.

As Lakoff points out in other works (I haven't read Whose Freedom), among the most insidious strategies of the right is to attack taxes — the lifeblood of government and therefore the lifeblood of civilization. By attacking taxes, not only do they cause the rich to avoid paying their share, they also get to use the resulting deficits as an excuse to cut liberal programs. In fact, tax cuts are the biggest threat to a host of programs that help make America civilized, including Head Start, child care, unemployment insurance, and many more.

Consequently, a top priority for liberals is to work out how to frame taxes as good and moral — something we should be proud to pay, ashamed not to pay, and outraged at rich people paying less than their share of. (Lakoff has some ideas on this, such as framing taxes as dues, or the price of living in a civilized society, and he acknowledges there is more work to be done.) At any rate, I share Lakoff's views on the urgency of reframing the debate on taxes, because taxes are the lifeblood of civilization. And I share Lakoff's views on the urgency of reframing the debate on many other issues, including freedom.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on June 29, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Joel Rubinstein:

Smart Government

Fair Taxes

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 29, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats needs to not be afraid of confronting these bullshit soundbites and labels head on. One easy way to do it? Mock it and show how mindless they are.

"They call our plan 'cut and run'. I could take their example and characterized their plans as 'stay and die', or 'lie and die', or 'stay and pay', or something equally as pithy. But you know what that does? That shrouds and minimizes the issue at hand here. The same way that it would be wrong to say that Republicans simply want our troops to stay and die in war, it is wrong to try and characterize our position as a complete retreat. The republicans do themselves and the country no good by trying to make the debate, the REAL debate on this war that needs to happen about a catchphrase to beat their opponents over the head with."

Posted by: Kryptik on June 29, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

I also suggest that we insert the adjectival phrase "tiny-penis" in every description of a Republican or right-wing program.

The Republican tiny-penis border security bill.

The tiny-penis Laffer Curve shows us that we cut marginal rates, government revenue increases (Here, look at this napkin).

Republican tiny-penis military spending has increased drastically after Operation tiny-penis Iraqi Freedom.

See how that works? In a couple of years, I guarantee you you'll have a gender gap you *won't believe* :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 29, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Bob, your republican references say a lot more about you than you think.

Posted by: Jay on June 29, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Democratic plans should, conversely, have woah, nice rack! inserted into their descriptors:

Senator Edward Kennedy introduced the single-payer woah, nice rack! healthcare bill today ...

Democrats have rallied around the proposal to increase woah, nice rack! CAFTA standards.

Feingold proposes a three-tiered woah, nice rack! withdrawal plan to get us out of Iraq in woah, nice rack! six months.

Now which set of plans would *you* rather vote for, NASCAR Dads?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 29, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Jay:

Well, the Lakster was the one, I believe who helped coin the phrase the Daddy Party for the GOP and the Mommy Party for the Democrats.

Well ... which would *you* rather have?

An Impotent Daddy ...

or a

Bountiful Mommy? :):):)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 29, 2006 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Mommy, why is Daddy's dinkle so weensy?"

"Mmmm ... more milk! Thanks, Mom!"

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 29, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans want Unending War.
.
Pass it on. Keep on passing it on. Eventually this phrase will overcome "cut and run."
.
Republicans want Unending War.

Posted by: CT on June 29, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

I have no problem with the CAFTA standards, although most anything that the drunk woman-slaughterer from Mass. says goes in one ear and out the other. And as far as Feingold goes, haven't we gone over this? Anybody that didn't have the courage to go into Iraq, sure has hell shouldn't be listened to when it comes time to draw down the troops.

One other question Bob, who's your daddy?

Posted by: Jay on June 29, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

CT, hence the projected draw down of troops beginning this year.

And no, that had nothing to do with the left. Remember, someone said back in 2002, when "The Iraqi's stand up, we will stand down".

Now an unending war with pinheads like you, I am all for it.

Posted by: Jay on June 29, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

I also suggest that we insert the adjectival phrase "tiny-penis" in every description of a Republican or right-wing program.
Bob
Posted by: rmck1

after america's castration in vietnam, "tiny penis" is pretty apt.

it really is unfortunate that so many third worlders have to die so these impotent pussies can once again feel like men.

Posted by: Nads on June 29, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

"it really is unfortunate that so many thirld worlders have to die so these impotent pussies can once again feel like men" nads

I agree 100% nads, it's just terrible that so many liberals don't take Islamic jihadism seriously.

Posted by: Jay on June 29, 2006 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

it really is unfortunate that so many third worlders have to die so these impotent pussies can once again feel like men.

If Bush had a conscience he'd jump off a bridge.

That simple.

Posted by: obscure on June 29, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

"projected draw down of troops beginning this year" Jay, do you preview your posts? What does this mean?

Also, the president has not announced a draw down of troops, and congress recently condemned the entire notion. Please state your sources.

Posted by: CT on June 29, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

CT, hence the projected draw down of troops beginning this year.
Posted by: Jay

surely you're not referring to the political stunt leaked by this corrupt administration which hems and haws its way to suggesting that maybe, just maybe, we'll pull 7000 of our 125,000 troops from Iraq this Fall, and then maybe another 21,000 by december of 2007???

the pussies in this administration leaked those numbers for one reason: votes in november. they read the polls (since they're far better at polling than governing or running a war) and they KNOW bush's war is unpopular. ... and for the repubs to keep any seats this Fall requires a troop drawdown ... or at least an insignificant one, with the promise of more to come.

but then, ignorant little pussies like you have fallen for every other lie these guys have sold you. I guess it's hard to see the truth with bush's phallus wedged firmly in your cheek.

Posted by: Nads on June 29, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

It's a lot easier to do history of the subject than propose liberal advances.

BTW, people don't jump up and take notice when you simply rename old ideas (regardless of how good the ideas are). Republicans have made advances specifically because they have been advancing ideas that change the status quo (i.e. cut or eliminate programs and taxes, invade countries not threatening us, drill in wilderness areas, mine for coal in national monuments, bypass constitutional checks and balances, offer government contracts without competitive bidding, tell senators of opposing party to fuck off, etc.)

As they have now redefined the status quo, our chance to reframe the debate is basically here. I suggest we do it in terms of "American community", "good government", "checks and balances", "representative government" . . . just pick some useful phrases from the constitution, declaration of independance, federalist papers, etc.


. . . or for more negative liberal: "borrow and spend Republicans", "greasy palm Republicans", "divisive Republican strategies", "bribes and boobs", "payoffs and prostitutes", "conservitive corporate courtiers", etc.

Posted by: B on June 29, 2006 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Also, what's wrong with "the so-called war on terror"?

Posted by: B on June 29, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

If it's not clear, I support creating good government and working to eliminate corruption -- not just talking about it.

Posted by: B on June 29, 2006 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

mark: There is nothing more leftie than eating sushi considering the Moonies distribute most of the stuff in this country.

JeffII: Maybe in flyover land.

Not here. In San Diego, sportfishing boats are catching smallish bluefin tuna right now. I trade home-grown avocados (and, later in the season, tomatoes) for fresh fish. Chill it, slice it, and serve with real wasabi from Oregon.

http://www.freshwasabi.com/

Posted by: anandine on June 29, 2006 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

David in NY: I've always been fond of that comma before the "and" in a series, although I think it's not the "modern" tendency.

The serial comma can prevent misunderstanding. The book dedication, "To my parents, Ayn Rand and God," would make a smaller claim with a comma after 'Rand.'

Posted by: anandine on June 29, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

As smaller, but less interesting, claim, anandine.

Thanks for the example.

Posted by: David in NY on June 29, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

I am referring to the draw down that Gen. Casey has spoken of, remember him? He's the one in the field, calling the shots.

If I were you I would be a little hesitant in speaking of ignorance considering your embarassment on the past few election days. It just kind of makes you look, well stupid.

btw, topic to discuss: can a liberal critique someone without sexual references? Talk amongst yourselves.

Posted by: Jay on June 29, 2006 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans want Unending War.
.
Pass it on. Keep on passing it on. Eventually this phrase will overcome "cut and run."

Again, liberals are so simple that they think a "soundbyte" can solve their problems. Not even for a second does it occur to them that the term "cut and run" has traction with people because it's ... THE TRUTH.

To liberals, the concept of what is or isn't actually THE TRUTH doesn't even register. The term "truth" has no meaning to them.

That's why they are going to spend the next 8 or possibly 16 years complaining about "voting machines" and "sound bytes".

Posted by: sportsfan79 on June 29, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry Jay ... I can see you're trying to say something but all that's coming out is mmmfffpph ...

try posting again AFTER removing bush's penis from your mouth.

Posted by: Nads on June 29, 2006 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Jay wrote:

btw, topic to discuss: can a liberal critique someone without sexual references? Talk amongst yourselves.

nads wrote:

try posting again AFTER removing bush's penis from your mouth.

I guess not, Jay. They must not be getting any.

Posted by: sportsfan79 on June 29, 2006 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Jay: btw, topic to discuss: can a liberal critique someone without sexual references?

Now, Jay, you're always complaining about our sexual references. But when you wanted to talk about sex, we were right there to discuss it with you.

Posted by: shortstop on June 29, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Well ... which would *you* rather have?

An Impotent Daddy ...

or a

Bountiful Mommy? :):):)

Bob

In other words, the Republicans are Tom Ewell, the Democrats Jayne Mansfield. (In honor of the 50th anniversary of "The Girl Can't Help It," still one of the best rock 'n' roll movies ever made.)

However, I fear that if Rush, Sean, etc., got a hold of this analogy, they'd conjure up images of Hillary Clinton in a bra and mess up the whole thing.

Though I do like the earlier comment about Republicans using wars and such to "prove their manhood." A campaign with that angle would certainly eunuchize them.

Posted by: Vincent on June 30, 2006 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: aacxmmc on June 30, 2006 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: cxmmc on June 30, 2006 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

Vincent:

Well, the idea I had was new logos for the parties:

The GOP would be Uncle Sam, looking down with a worried frown at the smooth, completely bulge-free crotch of his striped pants.

The Democrats would be Lady Liberty with a ginormous set of bazoombas :)

I realize, of course, that this partisan politicization of secondary sexual characterists is entirely childish, and meant for the most part as a parody. While I believe language is important, I think ideas and issues are moreso, and the Democrats' Lakoffian dream of finding a magic framing bullet will doubtless prove chimerical.

The biggest problem with boiling down Democratic values and ideas into compelling catchphrases has little to do with language and everything to do with core philosophy.

It's much harder to sell ideas that are greater than the self -- the community, the public sphere, even the idea of America as a nation -- than it is to sell ideas that revolve around the self.

In marketing terms, individualism trumps communitarianism every time.

Also, all the negative and malicious emotions that are triggered by threats to the Self -- envy, resentment, hatred of the Other -- are extremely potent motivating tools. All you need to do is figure out a slightly-less-than-halfassed way to rationalize tbem.

Purer motivations that speak to the community, to generosity of spirit, IOW to core Democratic values -- agape, philia, compassion, empathy -- make for fine rhetoric but are hard to motivate people to act in their name.

This is one of the reason why most observers upon hearing the phrase "compassionate conservative" knew it was nothing more than a marketing device.

Conservatism is fundamentally not compassionate.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on July 1, 2006 at 1:41 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: DD on July 1, 2006 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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