Words-2
1st installment: 10/1/2005
2nd installment: 10/8/2005
3rd installment: 10/18/2005
4th installment: 4/30/2006
last worked on: January 9th, 2018
(fastfind>>Vocabularies, Made of words, Mihai Nadin, Al Gore, Fry's graph, Stolen elections, 911 An inside job, Memes,

The following includes old discussions, articles and links, only partially updated.

The original discussion closed long ago, but you're welcome to send me your thoughts --to: craig er oochi  a t  outlook dotty com ,

My opening letter--

(Somewhat updated and revised for clarity) --was in search of an approach --to (somehow) reconcile citizen fitness with the franchise to participate and vote. As of 2017, this issue looms larger than ever.

Although literacy is an important tool of such a discussion and one I want to begin with, this was not intended to be a brief on behalf of a meritocracy by the formally educated/degreed class. Those who work in the professions are able to understand what's really going on in their respective fields, but witness the near universal bamboozling or silencing of (say) medical and dental doctors on the issues of mercury amalgam fillings and fluoridated water (outside of Europe). (FYI: fluoride is effective when topically applied, but not by ingestion --through which, the uncontrolled medication of an entire community, toxic levels can be reached --uselessly.) It's understandable that personal risk aversion tends to outweigh bucking establishments with "inconvenient truth", but as that truth eventually emerges, it erodes confidence in those we'd normally trust for informed opinions --and we end up with a rather clueless society.

The above is discordant. I hoped to have a better idea just what my point and approaches were going to be --after working through discussions with interested others. No doubt there's plenty of published opinion on these matters, but it's not being discussed --within my limited ear/eyeshot [circa 2005, but it is now: year 2017].

At the time, I felt that new political initiatives and parties were spinning their wheels --unless/until they honestly addressed matters of voter competence, self-censorship, the intimidation of our natural leadership, --and the need for an effectively graduated franchise (at least for participation within the structure of a reform political party), based on awareness and concern.

* There are a few political groups (perhaps from simpler times) which tried to address this last issue. On the left are socialist parties (such as the DeLeonists) who imagined a future "industrial congress" --the members of which would advocate from their respective positions of (at least material) competencies. On the right was a movement advocating a technical meritocracy: "Technocracy Incorporated" --an amazing and an amazingly forgotten group who sought no less than the dissolution of all political borders on the North American continent.

Most "liberals"/"progressives", by contrast, advocate for an expanded franchise, and an ever more direct democracy. We end up with representatives and leaders who best pander to us (for the moment).

With much thanks to the reference desk at the North Bend Public Library (I'd made only a little progress searching on my own), here are some literacy starting points (quite familiar to the educators among us):

* There's been some muddying of the waters in recent years with alternatives to the traditional concept of "grade level" reading, such as might be determined by Edward Fry's document grading graph or the "Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Score" (F-K). In 1992 the National Institute for Literacy (NAL) surveyed (hopefully a representative cross-section of) U.S. citizens for reading ability and sorted us out into 5 levels. Half of those that the NAL surveyed were unable to go beyond usefully reading a street map, filling out simple forms, or calculating the cost of a purchase (Level #2). Level #3 folks could "integrate information from relatively long or dense text".

* "Grade level" assumes either continuous education and literary experience --or the equivalent thereof. "--to become broadly literate, adults will have to engage in wide-ranging reading for some years. Military research indicated that it may take the normal, typical child six to eight years to become as competent in reading and comprehending the written language as he or she is at listening to and comprehending oral language. It takes the typical reader with high school skills 12 years of reading broadly across a number of content areas (science, literature, history, etc. ) to become a 12th grade level reader. So becoming highly and broadly literate when one starts from a low baseline of both knowledge (vocabulary, concepts) and word recognition takes a long time."

--The foregoing sounds like a rather formidable prescription for "nose to the grindstone" throughout one's school years --or you're left standing at the curb. I was quoting from Applied Behavioral & Cognitive Sciences, Inc.  --per their "Functional Context Education" concept of accelerated, applied or dedicated literacy enhancement --per ABC's references to "Sticht, T. G., Armstrong, W. B., Hickey, D. T., &  Caylor, J. S. (1987) and "Cast-off Youth: Policy and Training Methods from the Military Experience" (New York: Praeger).

--Might there be an easier way to achieve or recover competency?

* While it's popularly understood that mass publications (popular magazines) are adjusted to an 8th grade reading level, let's realize we're only counting (of course) those who actually read.

* We sometimes see news items about the percentage of the people who read some part of a newspaper every day ("down to 38% [circa 2003?] from 79% in 1960") --or who've read just one book in the last year for entertainment: "less than half". The steepest declines are among young adults. Let's be mindful that this doesn't acknowledge those who are assiduously texting and e-mailing each other --plus reading their news/stuff/crap off the Internet.

Tools:

* Microsoft Word can display a Flesch-Kincaid readability score for any document you sic it upon. Be sure to paste it in as unformatted text, so as not to confuse the program with hidden markup language. Also given is the "Flesch Reading Ease" rating from 0 to 100. (You must have your "Tools\Options\Spelling & Grammar" set to "Check grammar with spelling" and "Show readability statistics".)

A score of 90 to 100 is considered understandable at a 5th grade reading level. A range from 60 to 70 requires an 8th to 9th grade level. Zero to 30 is considered college graduate level. Reader's Digest weighed in at about 65, Time magazine rated at about 52, and the Harvard Law Review scored in the low 30s.

Interestingly, the Pledge of Allegiance comes out at 12th grade level and so did the Bill of Rights (which scored a 46.7% Flesch Reading Ease rating).

* Fry's Readability Graph is next here and you can use it without a computer. Just pick 100 word stretches at random (from the document in question), tallying up the syllables and sentences (plus the estimated fraction of the final sentence in decimal form when you get to the 100th word).

The King James and the Revised Standard versions of the Bible are listed as 12th grade level reading at www.christianbook.com, but if they were using Microsoft Word's utility, which seems to stop at grade 12, even with readabilities in the low 30s (so use the above graph as well).

"Vocabulary" didn't turn up in the then current literature I was reading (circa 2005), although I'd seen it as a consideration in older references. I suspect that wordy counts fell away with assumptions about a monolithic Anglo-Saxon American culture. The Oxford English Dictionary passed 20+ volumes and 600,000 words years ago, the numbers of new words are exploding, and we have a mix of populations, ethnically, culturally and occupationally, with many specialized vocabularies. (Which reminds me of how difficult it's become to break bread together, even at a family gathering --what with all the diets and fad food consciousness now-a-days. Different language and and topic pools are somewhat like that.)

It would be useful to educate everyone to a well chosen common vocabulary --and just such a proposal was made --75 years ago: Charles Kay Ogden's "Basic English". The total vocabulary amounted to just 850 words! Read about it at the Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_English

The entire Bible has been translated into Basic English: http://www.o-bible.com/bbe.html
---and Genesis Chapter 1 tests out at a "83.5" for reading ease and a grade level of 6.9 --instead of the KJV's 12.

Well previous to the current (2018) edit, Microsoft Word tested this web page at "37.2" for reading ease and at "12th grade" for reading level.
 

--Craig

2nd installment: 10/8/2005:

* I was in receipt of a few brief responses, which I took the liberty to post (leaving out any not-needed personal information) --using just initials. I invited contributors to contact me if they had a problem with that --and I'd, of course, have immediately deleted their words --but there were no problems.

To Craig,

You have brought up some very important ideas. Reading and writing
skills are appalling. When my children were in high school 5-10 years
ago I became a thorn in the school systems side because of the focus
on becoming "job ready" and consumers instead of teaching our young
people how to think critically. I -- would -- like to be a part of this
discussion/ (effort?)

Thanks,
MB

(To Craig)

It seems like an expanded vocabulary would be like giving an artist more colors
to paint with and would be very important to context.  I know if I read
something like the New Yorker in a Dr. Office, I'm struck by the richness --kind
of like looking at a well exposed picture (or one that has been manipulated
with finesse).  Perhaps it's expanded vocabulary that we miss in present
writing?

I find myself doing more reading of news on the internet these days also.

CL

Hi Craig:

Well I read it all the way though and I must say that you put a lot of work into this. One day, when we get together, we can talk about words, reading, and comprehension in context. I'm tired tonight, I put in a long day today and must hit the sack soon. Have a good night.

PC

Wow, Craig, thanks! I will go over all that again this evening. Am HIGHLY interested.

JS

[By Craig --to all] I've had little use for Gore or Kerry since they gave away their respective presidential elections to the Bush crime family, but when I read through Al Gore's Keynote Speech to the WeMediaConference [? --yep: that's what they named it] delivered on October 5th, not only did it seem exactly on-point with this discussion, but it jelled some of my thoughts --initially provoked by your responses --and by my sleepy, late-night reflections upon what I'd posted to start this discussion.

Later, I happened upon what appears to be another relevant work (by Mihai Nadin) while Googling for something else (as so often happens  :-) Nadin treats of the developing "illiteracy" more as a "here comes the future" phenomenon --than simply a point of despair. (I've sent him an invitation to our discussion.)

* That business about "Flesch-Kincaid readability" levels and the Fry Graph for estimating the grade level of a piece of literature --really: I suspect it would be more accurate to say "this author writes like he's been conventionally educated through the ___th grade". I don't think it's a good indication of how likely it is that a person with a conventional education through the ___th grade --who is interested in the subject matter(!) --will be able to figure out and make use of the text in question.

The National Institute for Literacy surveys are, of course, much more useful in estimating actual literacy in the general population --but -- -

But: while folks "who don't read so good" are often found to be incapable of the comprehension required to usefully participate in the process of self governance, I have to wonder if it makes that much difference among the (unfortunately) small segment of the public who actually cares about our society and follows the issues. Surely: the efficiency with which one works his/her way through a piece of literature is much less of a factor than a person's curiosity about it --plus the motivation to understand and apply it.

My personal experience is that I'm actually less likely to get good "traction" with well educated professional individuals than with average folks who are 1) interested, 2) somehow usefully engaged with life, and 3) who actually have a free-time life ("of the mind") that goes beyond entertainment/television and consumption.

* Gore spoke eloquently about the initial triumphs of our nation as Jefferson and company imagined and created it --with the precious words-in-a-row --which make up our founding documents: "The Rule of Reason", the break with a past based on wealth, privilege, power, and blood lines.

Yes, I know: it was carefully crafted to preserve control by a landed, white, male aristocracy --but it was done with much more than just a "tip of the hat" to the values, freedoms, and process which we extoll --and mourn the passing of under the Bush administration (and subsequent administrations).

So on the one hand: let's permit ourselves all the "constructive hypocrisy", license, and latitude we might need to press on with this "American experiment", as we imagine a "more perfect Union".

On the other hand, let's also consider that for many reasons (demographical, ecological, too late, too much "bad seed" --whatever): this nation (and maybe the world), despite our best efforts, is going to crash.

Even for such worst case outcomes, we need to come up with methods for coping, compensating, and preserving our awareness --and it becomes that much more important to do so, if this is indeed the last chapter of our story.

If our heritage and work does have to wait upon some distant future, consider what had to wait through the "dark ages" from classic antiquity!

So let's do right --at least that which is within our powers, for the sake of the past, ourselves, and a however postponed future.

Gore's main points were about the near-monopoly that the military-industrial-corporate establishment (not his words) has on the medium (television) which has a near-monopoly on most people's free time: about 3/4 of it as of 2000-2005 --or 4 hours and 28 minutes per day; and that: "The inherent value or validity of political propositions put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant, compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the perceptions of voters". Through his speech he flogged an initiative of his own (with partner Joel Hyatt) of starting up a private television network, which is a noble enough undertaking, but not an equivalent answer to the passing of affordable access to the public discourse via the many printing press businesses which were once to be found in every American community.

Gore simply abandons the prospect of a return to the popularity of reading, although access (my opinion) has never been better --via the Internet.

The take-home for me is that 90+ percent of the people can not "think outside the [TV] box" --the very definition of reality for them (as in: "if it ain't on TV, it didn't happen"). Our issues in this forum about literacy --are neither here nor there --for "TV Nation" and "Social Media Nation".

* One alternative is to simply write off the 90+ percent of the public who are so captive and go our separate cultural way --leveraging and manipulating mainstream culture as we might and must in order not to be exterminated by (say) corporate, Christian and/or Islamic absolutists.

* A more hopeful agenda (for getting people up to speed in this democracy) would be to create do-able alternatives to broadcast, cable, and satellite television, with at least enough market penetration/TV time-share --to make that 5% difference in public awareness which can swing an election or a poll (that isn't rigged).  I can imagine a project by Guerilla News Network --

    http://www.gnn.tv/

--or Democracy Now

    http://www.democracynow.org/

--to popularize and distribute "The Download of the Day" --perhaps via WiFi out of your coffee stop on the daily commute. There'd be some titillating drama, riveting news and commentary, alternating National Geographic, special report, strange world type segments (hey: do some "George Noory" type explorations of "phenomena" on the cheap), a little talk show/humor stuff,  cartoons, a groovy "alternative highways" travelogue installment, a panel show and/or contest show that features issues, relevant subjects/quiz categories and juicy consequences for the contestants. (Get common --indulge folks a bit --something for everybody [on more than one "channel" choice] and always: something outrageous to talk about at the office/job site. Folks might then feel "permission" to start thinking again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~Craig's blather continued:

* So okay, we seem to be on task: "reconciling citizen fitness with franchise (somehow)", but maybe you have a better idea about what we should be working towards. Let's hear it.

* As implied by my first points, we need to enable and engage people who are able to care about and understand social issues (obviously), regardless of their putative "grade level" scores. That might also entail (at least in our imaginings) a society/social order, that is actually within the grasp of an average person's time and resources --to understand and engage --or: we (obviously) instead have to imagine a society that's either made up of diverse human parts --or genetically engineered (eugenics?) such that we'd have a race of super "Renaissance Man" types who could usefully listen to, influence, and vote on everything.

Let's consider those great men of 1776 for a moment --and as compared to our cultural circumstances. Consider those 1,000,000 new web pages every day [7 million - 2017]. There are now more words-in-a-row issuing forth each week (I think that was the span) than a classically educated gentleman was expected to read in a lifetime. Gosh: that gives us some perspective on what we're up against.

--Craig

3rd installment: 10/17/2005:

To Craig, from "R":

...no one can accuse you of a narrow focus:

You posit issues regarding "voter competence, self-censorship by and corporate intimidation of our natural leadership, --and a graduated, qualified franchise (at least within the structure of a political party)."

My bias is against any form of "franchise" test. We saw how those were used post-Reconstruction. I don't think you can presume any "enlightened" application based on historical evidence. Fascination with this issue is misplaced. Pre-civil war states (like Mass. and Conn.) were early users of such tests to discriminate against Irish or other immigrant classes.

There is a current test used by the Immigration agencies as a threshold for citizenship.  For non-immigrants (the rest of us) I think we have a working presumption that mandated public education will raise all boats sufficiently.

I think any "literacy" test can be used as a weapon for those wanting a take-down of public education. In fact the NCLBehind "criteria" apparently are achieving this result. It would also, indirectly, open up the concept of "one man, one vote."

Expansion of the franchise in the US has advanced one segment at a time based on race (1870 - 15thAmend. for freed slaves and adult males, or gender (1920 - 19th Amend. women), indians (1924 fed. legislation). Human ingenuity to subvert these advances showed up in, for example, the Pre-WWII South, which used "private" primary electoral systems to keep blacks out...(note your last "issue" above..."within the structure of a political party.") It took almost 80 years before the first piece of federal legislation was passed to implement any part of the 15th Amend. (1957 Civil Rights Act).

Literacy tests have a long heritage, including in Oregon. The old and modern response to legislation to extend the franchise, or add new voters, was and remains gerrymandering in order to marginalize certain voting populations.

But there is a more basic answer. The Constitution gives Congress control of these issues - who has the franchise. It is, needless to say, more than farfetched to think Congress will adopt restrictive  criteria related to enhancing voter "intelligence."

Its not going to happen in this part of the real world. More than that, these types of restrictions probably would be illegal under the 14th Amend and 15th Amend.

Justice Douglas said  there are " principles of equality enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment ..."  Oregon v Mitchell (1970).

The historical cases on this issue show the high value cultures have relentlessly placed on manipulating such tests in order to achieve some political advantage.

I suggest the answer to your underlying question lies elsewhere: the media and the educational system. I think "fixing" the right end of the pipe  is important. Fixing the "qualification" end implicitly accepts the failures of the media and educational issues.

If you take that approach you essentially wash your hands of the basic questions associated with Democracy. We should consider that those that do not meet your measure of literacy are essentially victims of the system. We can not accept that. I would argue, for example, that these "victims" have a greater interest in decisions affecting society in order to effect change regarding their disability. So any attempt to limit their participation is defective from the start...

So there are at least three reasons to reject a "literacy" approach to this issue: its not historically practical, its not legal and its not in keeping with Constitutional ideals of equality.

But note that recent Supreme Court cases, in some aspects, had an express or implied assumption about the ability of voters. Even J Douglas said " that radio and television have made it possible for a person to be well informed even though he may not be able to read and write."

So I think "media" and education are the true questions.

We know what the problems of media are. I don't pretend to understand education.

R
{End}

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~About this exchange --as it appears/follows here:

Many (most?) people use e-mail in an "essay-for-essay" mode, as if sending each other hard copy letters through the US Postal Service. However, e-mail and moveable text (the best thing that's happened to our culture since Gutenberg's "moveable type") allows us to correspond in a "conversational mode" --and that be an extremely thoughtful conversation, adorned with images and link-outs ("hot links"), in which we can escape and transcend our "real time" limitations in face-to-face dialogue. (The sorry reverse of this token is "chat" [AIM, ICQ, etc]: the worst of all worlds of communication.) What follows is R's letter again, but this time as I/Craig responded to it. R's words remain in blue font and we'll at least start by designating paragraphs as having been written by "C" or "R". Post entries are usually in curly {brackets} --for clarity.  --Craig

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear R wrote: >You posit issues regarding "voter competence, self-censorship by and corporate intimidation of our natural leadership, --and a graduated, qualified franchise (at least within the structure of a political party)."

C: Yep.
 

R>My bias is against any form of "franchise" test. We saw how those were used post-Reconstruction.

C: * I might/[should] have disarmingly mentioned the proverbial wax paper and ballpoint pen literacy tests of the old south.

C: * This, of course, is the "guilt by association" argument against common sense eugenics --that since it's once been abused. it can no longer be considered a social-political tool. We've also seen the disenfranchisement of felons abused terribly, but a sane society (with sane laws, not victimless laws^) might be outraged enough against their felons to bar them from all political participation (save freedoms of expression, of course).
^ laws against victimless "crimes"

C: We're talking ideals here --the applications of which to our kludgy society might best also be graduated. Within a new political party, however, proven grifters and grafters and liars --as we have in the Bush administration, just might not be admitted to full participation.
 

R> I don't think you can presume any "enlightened" application based on historical evidence. Fascination with this issue is misplaced. Pre-civil war states (like Mass. and Conn.) were early users of such tests to discriminate against Irish or other immigrant classes.

C: We'd best also, then, avoid public transportation, lest anyone be made to sit in the back of the bus.
 

rather is a current test used by the Immigration agencies as a threshold for citizenship.

C: There you go --and we also discriminate on the basis of age.
 

R> For non-immigrants (the rest of us) I think we have a working presumption that mandated public education will raise all boats sufficiently.

C: The whole point --or starting point, was that --given the complex society we live in, even earnest average folks are hopelessly behind the the steep curve of knowledge/information required to participate competently. Something --the rules, the complexity, assumptions about universal franchise, --or going to special franchise ("guild socialism", "industrial congress"), or maybe just voting for a party and philosophy --is certainly indicated (as our nation votes for assholes and our shores sink into rising oceans and etc.). Business as usual does not appear to be gettin' it.
 

R>I think any "literacy" test can be used as a weapon for those wanting a take-down of public education.

C: If I'm following you, you're suggesting that tests are a bad idea 'cause education is failing --and that makes public schools look bad.

I worked in and around schools for a number of years, public and private. I think public education is about as principled and coherent as the Democratic Party. When there's been strong leadership (gone for some time now), it's too often been loony --like the chaotic "classrooms without walls" revolution of the 1970s.

I think private/parochial education is as scary as the Republican Party --much as I covet the equal opportunity of intentional communities (see:

        http://www.ic.org/

--privately educating their own kids with vouchers (and basic government oversight to avoid crazy shit).

We, of course, have to discuss education --education policy, but I have some thinking/listening/reading to do first.
 

R> In fact the NCLBehind "criteria" apparently are achieving this result.

C: Some of the mandates of the NCLB are as nutty as have corrupt charter schools and private vocational institutions been a disaster for the students. (Perhaps we should simply avoid education altogether, because it's been so abused  ))  (--friendly ribbing  )

In general, the horror of the privatized transportation command and control in Louisiana {re: hurricane Katrina} --which got outsourced a time or two with profits raked off at each level --and when the corporation who finally ordered the evacuation busses waited for days --to see if maybe they could keep all the money and not spend any on busses --has made it clear that for-profit business has no business looking after the public welfare, in education or anywhere else. But community level "home schooling" might be a much better bet than the feckless politics of public schools.
 

R:> It would also, indirectly, open up the concept of "one man, one vote."

C: As in: "opening up the [that social] contract", and putting "one man, one vote" on the table, I take it.

Hmmnnn: guess that's exactly what we're going about here.

Now you'll suggest that there's a "slippery slope", much as Christo-righties suggest that Oregon's death-with-dignity laws are a slippery slope, so we mustn't even consider it.
 

R> Expansion of the franchise in the US has advanced one segment at a time based on race (1870 - 15thAmend. for freed slaves and adult males, or gender (1920 - 19th Amend. women), indians (1924 fed. legislation). Human ingenuity to subvert these advances showed up in, for example, the Pre-WWII South, which used "private" primary electoral systems to keep blacks out...(note your last "issue" above..."within the structure of a political party.")

C: Yes and, obviously, I'm trying to stifle the black vote.
 

R> It took almost 80 years before the first piece of federal legislation was passed to implement any part of the 15th Amend. (1957 Civil Rights Act).

C: No vote before its time
 

R> Literacy tests have a long heritage, including in Oregon. The old and modern response to legislation to extend the franchise, or add new voters, was and remains gerrymandering in order to marginalize certain voting populations.

C: Let me guess: --lawyers?  :-))  {R is an attorney --a good one. --C}

Seriously now: _that's_ why I suggested, further along (2nd Installment) that:

"But: while folks 'who don't read so good' are often found to be incapable of the comprehension required to usefully participate in the process of self governance, I have to wonder if it makes that much difference among the (unfortunately) small segment of the public who actually cares about our society and follows the issues. Surely: the efficiency with which one works his/her way through a piece of literature is much less of a factor than a person's curiosity about it --and the motivation to understand and apply it."

I went on to broach the gnotion of adopting an 850 word vocabulary for public discourse (or did I get that far yet?). (For the 3rd installment, I planned on translating some part of what I'd submitted into "Basic English" --to see how it rocks.)

--And I trust you're satisfied with the democratic direction of all that.
 

R> But there is a more basic answer. The Constitution gives Congress control of these issues - who has the franchise.

For federal elections (settled not all that long ago, I think).
 

R> It is, needless to say, more than farfetched to think Congress will adopt restrictive criteria related to enhancing voter "intelligence."

C: Right, but it's even further farther fetched to think that Congress would adopt anything that no one even bothered to attempt imagining. In the meanwhile, ideas can be readily practiced/modeled in private associations. As a political party --which becomes a public and publicly scrutinized thing, there might not be a dispensation to restrict participation on the basis of competence there either. ("Competence", as distinct from intelligence, literacy, grade level, and any such indirect indicators.)
 

R> Its not going to happen in this part of the real world.

C: I've grown weary of the RW --so am creating my/our own separate reality at the [this] "Words" URL.
 

R> More than that, these types of restrictions probably would be illegal under the 14th Amend and 15th Amend.

C: Talk about "opening the contract" --might be needing more amendments. (It's not unknown for subsequent amendments to partially nullify earlier ones.)
 

R> Justice Douglas said  there are " principles of equality enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment ..."  Oregon v Mitchell (1970).

C: Good on him.
 

R> The historical cases on this issue show the high value cultures have relentlessly placed on manipulating such tests in order to achieve some political advantage.

C: "Liberals" are given to examining/considering the motives of others, even those they disagree with, even to the extent of specially "advantaging" those who've been clambering for advantages. Let's think, for a while, about what these ever-so-busy manipulators are actually seeking. What deficits, personal and social and civic do they think they're remedying, and what are they actually trying to compensate for? "There's a reason for everything, often it's valid (in some way)."

Thwarting others with adversarial actions, alone --well: we must eventually come to terms anyway, so let's go straight at it.
 

R> I suggest the answer to your underlying question lies elsewhere: the media and the educational system. I think "fixing" the right end of the pipe  is important. Fixing the "qualification" end implicitly accepts the failures of the media and educational issues.

C: The problem ---is growth, and that it goes unquestioned. Growth is pretty much our society's unquestioned religion. "Growth": in numbers, complexities, knowledge, innovation, connectivities --is a bigga subject.

--I've parked it all at: Growth and TCT/growth.
 

R> If you take that approach--

C: Meaning a literacy/competence test of some kind --
 

R> --you essentially wash your hands of the basic questions associated with Democracy. We should consider that those that do not meet your measure of literacy are essentially victims of the system.

C: AND: it's very hard to hold ideas in isolation --we being "social animals". Individuals (whatever that means) get multiply reinforced by the main stream media and all their family/friends who share the MSM experience with them.

It's natural and kind for us to think of the public as victims --I share that with you, even though we don't seem to be satisfied with on-our-butts, spraddle-legged victim status for ourselves. Now that all be as it may, we seem unable to "get there from here" (get to a satisfactory society), given our current modes of conducting public process (or: business, as it's turning out in privatized America). Yer familiar with that definition of being crazy: "doing the same thing over and over, expecting better results".

One way or another, maybe for society, maybe for just ourselves, --or something in between: we've gots to make changes.
 

R> We can not accept that. I would argue, for example, that these "victims" have a greater interest in decisions affecting society in order to effect change regarding their disability.

C: Oh --quite, the only issue is whether to consider them as "new age adults", dependents,  --or some graduated status in-between.

I can't help but notice that your profession takes a very dim view of my offering legal opinions. If I offer to "survey" my neighbor's property (and I have a distinct interest in that) --or diagnose what ails him (ditto, if he's contagious), there will be consequences. Somehow, the enfranchisement I have to participate in my own, local community is hamstrung with all sorts of damnable restrictions. The reason given to me: "I'm not qualified", "I'm not competent". (They sure know how to hurt a guy!)

But --hey: if I'm not qualified to give a legal opinion, then how qualified can I be to vote in folks who write the laws upon which opinions are based?

Perhaps --just maybe, we'd enjoy a much saner society if the concept of competency was extended to our participation in politics (somehow).
 

R:> So any attempt to limit their participation is defective from the start...

C: Let's see now: my house cats are particularly interested in the decisions we've been making on their behalves recently --like whether to go to the Vet --or weather it out at home. We're also making decisions for dependent people that we care for {an adult foster care situation}.

The differences among the competencies of these entities (and I consider all life --especially that with faces, to be spiritual entities), my own competence, and that of our great grandchildren (whose lives we regularly meddle in), are only matters of degree.

It would appear, then, that the whole damned scene here is --utterly defective!
 

R> So there are at least three reasons to reject a "literacy" approach to this issue: its not historically practical, its not legal--

CD: Not such a good stand-alone reason. We're gettin' some new Supremes. What's legal and what's not is gonna get fluid.
 

R>--and its not in keeping with Constitutional ideals of equality.

C: And I've just ticked off a list of stuff for which some of us (all, actually) are more equal than others --with things as they are.
 

R> But note that recent Supreme Court cases, in some aspects, had an express or implied assumption about the ability of voters. Even J Douglas said that: "radio and television have made it possible for a person to be well informed even though he may not be able to read and write."

C: Quite so --and then there are blind folks --and such. Again, I refer you to *the above* statement.
 

R> So I think "media" and education are the true questions.

C: As does Al Gore, and both are steadily deteriorating, per his citation that in an international survey about how free is the press in various nations, the United States placed #27 --! (We seem to be placing in the teens and 20s on a lot of lists.)
 

R> We know what the problems of media are.

C: Corporate oligopoly. The People voted in Ronald Reagan, who eliminated limits upon what broadcast, network, and print media owners can get away with. They voted for Reagan twice, Nixon twice and the Bushies 3 times --4 to 6 times, if you count governors. (Somewhere I have a clipping of Studs Terkel lamenting about workers voting against their own class interests.)
 

R> I don't pretend to understand education.

C: I have to think more upon it myself.
 

Craig

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Next exchange:

C wrote: * So: can I edit all this down and put our discussion on that web page?

R: Boy are you a glutton for quotational punishment...fire away.

C: Hey thanks.

I've already done a couple of these and it does take some sensitivity.

The goal, of course, is to work toward a constructive synthesis.

** I feel that I've pretty much emptied myself out --just want to do a Basic English translation of something familiar for comparison (not the Bible, please) --maybe a part of what I've already posted.

Craig

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Next exchange:

C: ** Thanks for your insights/opinion on the viability of a minimal literacy test (based on Basic English, perhaps). Even though it doesn't get at the issues competency I'm interested in, it's something most folks can understand and have worthwhile discussions about.

R: Im working up to it...
this is not an uncomplex issue...
-you just don't jump to "competency" and assume away the threshold issues...
-often those threshold issues are more important than the perceived "core" issues...
--I want a silver bullet too...but at what cost?
       --lets assume you could get the "test" you wanted...
           --would you want the society that had the hubris to use it?

C: You seem married to the gnotion that I'm looking for a test, whereas I've been talking about several other approaches as well:

* Simplifying the culture (locally, perhaps --as an intentional community model --or maybe informally via a private social association).

* Fractional competencies (re: my mentions of "guild socialism" and an "industrial congress" as earlier attempts).

* Limiting a more general franchise to a very small minority (somehow).

* Breeding smarter people (which is a devil's dance, since a competitive culture will then accelerate).

* Disregarding (for lack of a better term) main stream culture and maintaining separate --and probably simpler ones within "identity groups" --not necessarily in the form of physical intentional communities.
 

R: --there was an international crosswords puzzle contest this week somewhere..they claim they have eliminated the "bias" inherent in language and other stuff to make the contest "fair"---

C:    ---ummmm

Just like academic tests claim to have eliminated cultural/ethnic bias.
 

'Bye for now,

Craig

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Next exchange:

R: got me goin'
    --this has nothing to do with alternative elite communities or the like --

C: A little perspective: If we fixed the whole country, it would be (what?) --8% of humanity.

R:  --that's a whole other approach...Im not "ignoring" it--it's just irrelevant for this discussion.

C: Oh dear --and here I went and thought I was setting the parameters of this discussion --to be wide enough for attempts to model alternative social forms  :-)

--say:  http://www.tamera.org/Monte_Cerro/index.html

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
IS PEACE POSSIBLE?
The Experiment 'Monte Cerro'

From May 01, 2006 until April 30, 2009 200 people from different parts of the earth - women and men, children and youth, scientists and artists - will begin a future experiment in Portugal. 134 hectares of land are available for this.

The goal is to establish a pilot model that could give an answer to the ecological and political themes of our time as well as to the human themes of community, trust and love. What does it mean to live in community nowadays? Not only a community with human beings but a community with plants, animals and all beings?

If the experiment succeeds to its full extent a crystallization kernel for a worldwide peace culture will possibly have been set. Preparations have begun. We welcome all those who want to actively cooperate.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

C: They've sure tried it the other way --going to Israel and Palestine, rounding up locals and encouraging them in the ways of peace and love. Somehow they didn't end up "collateral damage".

R:  --if you want to discuss fixing the beast then
    discussion about finding safety in a sheltered part of one stomach
    intentionally avoids the larger issue.

C: We shelter ourselves in nice homes, look out for our families, are active in the local community to make out towns a better place to live. Intentional community is just more of the same.

* These things can be rather brave undertakings when they include alternative relationships (instead of the usual permaculture farm trip or an urban political commune --in which one's social life is "scored" on ones own (Alpha Farm and the rest). Such intense efforts are often train wrecks --and the participants end up emotional wrecks. I've plunged several times, ending up too fried for technical work 3 times.

Intimacy and how we answer it IS "the larger issue".

For 35+ years I've been listening to "after the revolution" talk of one sort or another. My answer has been "do it now", "love now" (the name of my/our first attempt).
 

R: How do you keep faith with our 25-cent populist movie heritage
which said each and every sod-dust-covered settler stamping
through the door and marking his "X" counted equally
in ramping up to the American Dream?

C: Not sure about what that statement amounts to --something about the conquest of the territories and dead Indians?
 

R: Show me where objective data confirms
literacy or so-called "comprehension" bears any form of relationship
to rational policy outcome?

C: I agree about straight literacy indicators (which is why I've suggested bringing literary levels down within easy reach by way of "Basic English"), but comprehension IS an issue. There are certain social/spiritual concepts and qualities which Republicans, neocons, libertarians, objectivists/Randites, and fascists do not "get" (and no: I don't lump these groups together --entirely).

Those who are on the "inside" of social solutions legitimately question the comprehension of those who are outside --and part of the problem. This might be simply stated as "knowing right from wrong", having a moral/ethical compass --or not.

Does this sort of awareness arise only within the walls of a privileged community? Maybe that's where it was invented, but I think it's portable. Maybe certain kinds of adversity (if not too desperate) also nurtures/incubates gnotions of spirituality and advanced states of human community. I suspect that an abundance of material wealth isn't very helpful --but then there's the Buddha --and Jesus' family (unless there wasn't such a man). He is rumored to have been a scion of the world's 3rd richest family.
 

R: Indeed, the Neo-con attack on science and secular society --

The neo-cons are very secular (I suspect they're utterly contemptuous of the religious, like the Randites [Ayn Rand]) and use either religion or science as might be convenient at the time.
 

R: --is driven and led by the clearly literate

C: Bush excepted --but, yes, more cleverly literate than the average duck for sure.
 

R: --but they are ideologues.

C: I wonder. Do they even bother with something like Hegel, or do they just want all the marbles? They may have bought into some "I've got mine Jack system" like "greed is good" Objectivism in their early days (as did Greenspan) --long enough for their souls to atrophy.
 

R: The destruction of the environment is intentionally driven by a supra-literate--

C: Think so? Very intelligent, yes, and can scan a document pretty fast --maybe read up a storm in their college days, but is there a love of literature and the "mother tongue" --or anything? Connecting with an author is spiritual.

** There is a (somewhat vague, I think) notion --a formal notion, to be sure, about "emotional intelligence": "EQ", which, like "consensus process" is perversely applied to corporate cultures. It is about human-human spirituality --of course --or it's about nothing. There are alleged tests for EQ. I suspect that might be more where it's at.

Clever people can be literate/enough to "get ahead" (of you) --and maybe that indicates nothing about "EQ" (to accept that term for the moment), but literate common folks, well --that's got to be a better indication of "EQ".
 

R: {The destruction of the environment is intentionally driven by a supra-literate} elite oriented toward materialistic values that --giving benefit of the doubt--who wilfully ignore the lion's share of consequences of their choices.

C: Right, and/or they just don't feel a "connectedness" with Gaia and other people --fellowship.
 

R: The questionable or destructive "outcomes" in international, national or local  policy formulation are not the consequences of comprehension failure  --where is there any evidence to support this?

C: See above discussions of emotional/spiritual comprehension.
 

R: To define the "solution," first frame the problem...

C: SO true. Once THE problem is truly understood, the rest is simply an "engineering assignment".
 

R: Take for examples the paramount or almost singular US refusal to sign on to numerous international or UN treaties or agreements...regarding global warming, nuke proliferation, land mines, arms control, weapons in space, gender or birth-control issues....Or consider the flip-side: the WTO, NAFTA or FTA... These "outcomes" are not the failed fruit of literacy or comprehension collapse in the narrow sense.

C: Right --{in} the "narrow sense" of straight literacy.
 

R: Is this not more reminiscent of 16th and 17th century mercantilism or typical nation-state behavior?

C: These folks WOULD like to run the clock back --at least to "La Belle Epoque" (too lazy to do the diacritic).
 

R: In a nut-shell: how is the rising supra-budget of the DoD and the collapsing budgets of social programs anything but the end-result of intentional policy decisions driven by various literate and fully--

C: "fully"? We were just previously talking "in the narrow sense" --and for cause.
 

R: -comprehending--

C: "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do."
 

R: --elites and interests?

C: Not exactly.
 

R: To be sure, the masses are massaged.

C: And it's turned out to be so easily accomplished --arghhhh.
 

R: And the problem is in how that happens....  {lack of} campaign finance reform,

C: essential {to fix that}

R: media concentration,

C: Reagan

R:  regulation of the public airways,

C: Reagan

R: --speaks to much of that issue.

C: Got elected twice.
 

R: The Rules of the Grand Game

C: {Sounds like} Z-biggy talk.

R: --are corrupted.

C: There are rules?
 

R: Changing whether or not Johnny can read 600 words

C: {That be} 850 {words --in Basic English}.

R: --isn't going to change that in a meaningful way.

C: By itself --no, but if Johnny can't read, then there's surely no return to that old "market place of ideas" based on print technology --that Al Gore lamented in his speech {see below}.

I think we still have a handle on --well: "text", since it's what's getting sent back and forth over the Internet and "texting" hand held devices. Without true comprehension of and interest in what we'd like to talk about, that's useless, of course, but without basic literacy, it's going to be hard to nail down any kind of thought with folks.

*** Am going to go with what we've exchanged between us. Have at least one more contribution coming in (a local guy --old but sharp. {He} has regrets about the socialists of the 1930s {and he's} up to speed on current events.
 

'Bye for now,

Craig

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Next exchange:

R copies his earlier writ and Craig's response --per:
 

R: >>     -that's a whole other approach...Im not "ignoring" it--it's just
>> irrelevant for this discussion.
>
C: > Oh dear --and here I went and thought I was setting the parameters of
> this discussion --to be wide enough for attempts to model alternative
> social forms

R: Note the first, clarifying exchange: "You posit issues regarding 'voter competence, self-censorship by and corporate intimidation of our natural leadership, --and a graduated, qualified franchise (at least within the structure of a political party)'. "

So, no, you didn't "set parameters"  if you want to talk about sex roles, etc etc....this says "something" about a focus on the larger political beast...a "fix" to that beast...I dont see this as an "alternative" social organization discussion...

That's something about which I have no info of any kind....except naive "probably good idea" senses.

I think what we have here is a failure of comprehension.
 

C: This: "I'll have a better idea just what my point is going to be after working through what turns up and talking to others who are interested" --from how the {posted} page starts out:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
{Quote from Opening letter --top of this page:}

It's pretty late in the history of our nation to bring up a long haul project like (what shall we call it?): reconciling citizen fitness with franchise (somehow).

Although literacy is an important tool of such a discussion and one I want to begin with, this is not a brief on behalf of a meritocracy by the formally educated/degreed class. Those who work in the professions are able to understand what's really going on, but --as witness the near-universal bamboozling or silencing of medical and dental doctors on the issue of fluoridated water (outside of Europe), too often risk aversion is more important than checking out inconvenient truth and bucking the establishment. We have a society of the too often clueless, led by the too often intimidated.

I'll have a better idea just what my point is going to be after working through what turns up and talking to others who are interested. No doubt there's plenty of published opinion on these matters, but it's simply not being discussed (within my ear/eyeshot).

At this point I feel safe to venture that new political initiatives/parties are spinning their wheels unless/until they honestly address matters of voter competence, self-censorship by and corporate intimidation of our natural leadership, --and a graduated, qualified franchise (at least within the structure of a political party).

* There are a few political groups, perhaps from simpler times, which have tried to address this last issue. On the left are socialist parties (such as the DeLeonists) who emphasized a need for an "industrial congress" --the members of which would advocate from their respective positions of material competencies. On the right was a movement advocating a technical meritocracy: "Technocracy Incorporated". (An amazing and an amazingly forgotten group who sought no less than the dissolution of all political borders on the North American continent.)

Most "progressives", by contrast, advocate for and celebrate an ever more direct democracy --in which the public chooses representatives and leaders who best pander to them (for the moment).

{End quote from the top of this page.}

Craig

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Next:

R: I await, as they say, "without"....

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Next:

C: "I await, as they say, 'without' "....

"Without --what?"

>Without the gate.

"Well give him the gate"  --went the old skit.
 

Craig

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Next:

R: I've mentioned this before {that "without" quote}

C: Not that I recall.
 

R: ...this is a Dickens novel

C: No --still doesn't ring a bell with me.

R: ...this is the final stage before these folks are turned into the streets and fields as the structure falls out from under them.....

C: A poignant literary moment --surely.

R: _____________ is an {accountant} for a big urban county...very compassionate policy wonk...does meditation...Quaker--

C: I hope he gets a lot of hugs --sounds like a guy who deserves a better planet.

R: ...he sees his position as the final ditch effort to keep the crisis from oozing into the the streets....he just shakes his head when you ask him how it goes...

C: Yes: we're in such need of a cultural revolution.

** Peculiar thing happened: I Googled on (something like) "without + Dickens + waits" (not sure now) and I immediately went to:

>http://home.earthlink.net/~bsabatini/Inimitable-Boz/etexts/dickens_on_capital_punishment.html

--and with no "page back" to Google search. I tried but couldn't make that happen again --some kind of a fluke.

It looks like something you'd be interested in, so there's the link.

You get more Dickens at:

http://home.earthlink.net/~bsabatini/Inimitable-Boz/
 

'Bye for now,

Craig

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Next:

R: Yep...Ive said you live a particular window in time that is important to document...

C: My "documents" should be good for 100,000 years or more (and I want to get back to that project soon).
 

R: The Dickens page and those 5 letters were very appreciated...thx

C: That fluke must have been "meant to be" --nice that you're pleased. (I found them interesting too --and vastly more than I knew about Dickens.)

Craig

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~And so ---our discussion amicably tapered off.


[Reviewed and re-editied to this point: 11/17/2017.  --Craig]
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Craig --to all:

Are we not made of words?

Are not textual words little desiccated spirits of meaning/purpose, distillations of will, angst, ideals, lust, love, pleasures and loss --which land within to feed upon our flesh and blood, to become us, to contend with myriad other words, utterances, phrases and concepts --to once again realize their ancient purposes?

I think it best to graciously give them room, to honestly entertain and challenge their intentions, not forgetting or slighting that swarm of others within us.

The meaning of "I" and its distinction from thee, is very much a matter of which small fractions of the common ocean of culture happen to be inside our minds --different parts of the whole; such that as our awareness/grasp increases, we necessarily grow more alike.

Unless: we are "hard wired" differently. It's been suggested that the American southeast was settled by a particular strain of people who are (um?) --whose social affinities extend but poorly beyond clan, such that they tend to be predatorial and alienated from normal societal [scale] civic/community sensitivities and concerns.

(See David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed for more on that.)

Here's a letter of mine (3/9/06) --to eventually be integrated with the rest of this page. [At the time I wasn't fully aware of Dawkin's "memes" concepts.]
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I wonder how responsible any of us are for "the words" --which just seem to issue forth.

As a boy I sat at length out in the side yard holding my head --trying to "catch" my thoughts before they became words. While I could visualize things and activities, I could not reach for deeper abstractions than the words, but I felt strongly (then) that there was a lower level of ideas, which then "dressed themselves" in words.

(11/18/2017 update) * Since then, I've long wondered if it's a process of contention between/among the words themselves ("them", as entities), but I've recently learned that experts in the field of linguistics do indeed think our languages mediate and operate a more basic level of thought --somewhat like computer programming languages access the underlying binary operations. Still: it's the conscious languages that we have in common and collectively build upon.

* If there's an underlying layer of thought, then how come it's prepared for most anything/concepts we throw at it?
(1/8/2018)
* By "words" I mean to include phrases, long pieces --Dawkins' "memes" --which are nearly all part of the common ground among us --"social animals". See Professor Richard Dawkins' book: The Selfish Gene for more development of his meme theme.

Memes are gaining momentum in academic circles as an armature for human/cultural development. A good presentation of and introduction to memetics is archived at Wisconsin Public Radio's "To the Best Of Our Knowledge" interview series at: http://archive.ttbook.org/book/memes  --Susan Blackmore's understandings and speculations in particular.

* Is it reasonable to say we have individual minds or private "intellectual property rights" --when 99% of our words/concepts and culture are borrowed/inherited from the common pool?

Judging people by myself (natch), we very much need conversations --hardly knowing what we're saying and thinking, save as it's reflected in our "others" --or, at least, imaginary listeners, when we compose our words in solitude. (Or do the words compose us?)

"Read that back to me Miss Olson", executives use to say to their secretaries.

I had a correspondent friend with "multiple personality disorder", except that she felt it to be quite normal, and that everyone else had "single personality disorder". Her (or the "dominant" who was her) -- her people would sometimes have private conversations that she might learn about later (or so she said).

Perhaps people who can produce creative works on "their own" benefit from some sort of an internal "community" of others --consciously or not. Perhaps we all do. I suspect that authors who can people their stories with credible characters have a well managed stable of personalities to draw upon. These "others" would, of course, also be creatures made up of the collections of words/"memes" within us.

Once upon a time sociometricians of various stripes concerned themselves a lot with working vocabularies --a "class thing" which they got off on (surely), but with interesting considerations --especially for the very unwieldy English language with what must be a million words by now (the Oxford English Dictionary had 600,000 in 20 or so volumes at one point). People seldom have working vocabularies over 30,000 and usually much less. Therefore English speaking people/s are constituted/characterized by many language pools, which overlap by --perhaps-- only a few thousand words. Save for certain kinds of linguists (who, I assume, mostly just talk to their fellow academics), are we largely oblivious to a situation which seriously impacts the very possibility of a national sense of community?

* My point here is that language pools probably work upon and shape affinity groups, just as I've speculated that we're affected/possessed as individuals.

* Of great merit was the "Esperanto" universal language movement, started in 1887. It was a hard sell in part due to its creator: L.L. Zamenhof of Poland, having been of Jewish descent. As of 2008 there were about 100,000 people who spoke it and as many as a million who are acquainted with it. 100 periodicals and 30,000 book titles have been published in Esperanto. Here are some current (2017) links:

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/06/13/413968033/esperanto-is-not-dead-can-the-universal-language-make-a-comeback

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=185348917

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto

http://esperanto.org/us/USEJ/world/index.html

http://esperanto-usa.org/esperanto/en

There was another movement (1926 and up until WW-2) to popularize "Basic English" (not to be confused with notions of "dumbed down" English). The idea was that, since the English language was already so wide spread, it would be a good basis for a much easier to master version, which the world could then all have in common. Originally it consisted of only an 850 word vocabulary (!) --achieved in part by way of belaboring combinations of common words into uncommon use.

Comprehensive dictionaries of the 1930s sailed past 600,000 words, so there are easily over a million English words now, whereas educated individuals might only command 30,000, and the working common vocabularies of diverse English speakers numbers only a few thousand words. We divide ourselves into hundreds of "language pools" by trying to use larger vocabularies. Clearly: standard English already divides us, so something like Basic English or Esperanto --with a deliberately limited vocabulary, does seem to be needed.

11/18/2017:

*** So: Esperanto or Basic English sounds like a splendid idea/cause --but: if who we are/ I am --is anchored in the words/languages we speak, is it possible to compress all that culture into such a small and streamlined package as Basic English or Esperanto?

*** On the other hand: what cultural delights might await us --on the other side of such a transition?

* 4/30/06 update: I had an e-conversation with the good and productive author Jerry Oltion (perhaps best known for science fiction titles like: Anywhere But Here and Paradise Passed) --who pointed out that we have many different languages and grammars. Jerry, far from having multiple personalities within write their own parts, has to consciously build the different characters/personalities into his stories. I also found an excellent article at:

http://www.brainconnection.com/topics/?main=fa/evolution-language3

--titled: The Evolution of Language, by Bret Peterson, Ph.D. --which summarizes several studies to suggest that our words-in-a-row are more of an interface --than the nitty-gritty of thought itself.

What is Language?

Before investigating how language came in to being, we must first decide what language is. When alone in a quiet space, one may think in a continuous stream of internal speech. At such times, language seems to be an integral part of thought. But there is no evidence that language is essential to any particular cognitive operation. Damage to the brain has for some patients resulted in a complete loss of speech, both external and internal, but researchers have been unable to correlate cognitive deficits with this loss. In his book Origins of the Modern Mind, Merlin Donald compares the loss of language in these patients to the loss of a sensory system. The patients have lost a tool that greatly simplifies life in the world, but like a blind or deaf person, there is no diminished intellect or consciousness that accompanies this loss.

Language is thought to be a mechanism for transmitting the information within thoughts. One experiment used to demonstrate this idea requires subjects to listen to a short passage of several sentences. The subjects are then asked to repeat the passage. Most subjects accurately convey the gist of the passage in the sentences they produce, but they do not come close to repeating the sentences verbatim. It appears as if two transformations have occurred. Upon hearing the passage, the subjects convert the language of the passage into a more abstract representation of its meaning, which is more easily stored within memory. In order to recreate the passage, the subject recalls this representation and converts its meaning back into language.

This separation of thought and language is less intuitive than it might be because many people find language to be a powerful tool with which to manipulate their thoughts. It provides a mechanism to internally rehearse, critique, and modify thoughts. Language allows us to apply a common set of faculties to our own ideas and the ideas of others presented through speech. This internal form of communication is a powerful tool for a social animal and could certainly be in part responsible for the strong selective pressures for improved language use.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It appears, then, that language/s are a way to get at and manipulate an underlying code/system of memory and concepts, much as we use "C+" or "Fortran" computer languages to get at and manipulate operations on the binary level which processing chips use.

That underlying "code" in humans --perhaps all animals-- might be chemical, based on our sense of smell. The 1000 different neural sensors, for 1000 odor "primaries" make the 3 primary colors plus luminance that our eyes sense pale by comparison and would obviously be a very rich basis for thought patterns.
 

Is there an olfactory basis for speech?

See Jaron Lanier's: "I Smell, Therefore I think" --in the May 2006 issue of Discover Magazine (also at:

http://www.discover.com/issues/may-06/departments/jarons-world/  --but you have to subscribe),

--bears the cover title: "Is Smell The Origin of Language?".

Extract: "Recently, Jim [Bower --neuroscientist, University of Texas] and his students have been studying the olfactory systems of different types of animals for evidence that the cerebral cortex as a whole grew out of the olfactory system. He often refers to the olfactory parts of the brain as the "Old Factory", as they are remarkably similar across species."
 

From another (really old) web page of mine:

*** Genesis 2-7: "And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul." [CD annotations: Hebrew nishmath for "breathing out", from neshamah; chaiyim.]

*** Job 19-17: "My breath itself has become loathsome to my wife, and I have become foul-smelling to the sons of my [mother's] belly." [:-)]

Okay: so let's say our ancestors figured it out that you could get a fair estimate of another's condition/attitude (even around corners) by just listening to his/her grunts --without having to get in each other's smelly faces. How about language, then, as "safe sniff"? Do we owe all that we are to halitosis?

The writer's context (then) may have been his contemporary reader's familiarity with and a reflexively practiced "breath characterization" --as a basis upon which to regard one-another. We think nothing of "sizing up a person by their looks". Did they still have an animalistic faculty for certainty about such wordless analysis?

--------Of course, we're still disposed to think poorly of a person with atrocious breath.

*** Proverbs 20-27: "The breath of earthling man is the lamp of Jehovah, carefully searching all the innermost parts of the belly."

Now that seems straight-forward enough. There are folks (Velikovsky and the recent author Graham Hancock) who tell us that the books of the Bible are uncomfortably literal. (And that term "earthling" is used eerily much. It carries a rather different cachet for the modern ear -- no?)

Annotations from that JH Bible on CD:

> Ecclesiastes 8-8: "Over the spirit (breath)" Hebrew baruach; Greek pneumati.

> Isaiah 30:28: "And his spirit (breath)" Hebrew weruchoh; Latin spiritus.

> APPLE: Hebrew tappuach. "There is much conjecture as to the identification of the tree and fruit denoted by the Hebrew word tappuach. The word itself indicates that which is distinguished by its fragrance, or scent. It comes from the root naphach, meaning 'blow; pant; struggle for breath.' (Ge 2-7; Job 31-39; Jer 15-9)"

"Regarding this, M. C. Fisher wrote: "Relationship [to 'naphach'] seems at first semantically strained, but the ideas of 'breathe' and 'exhale an odor' are related. The by-form puah means both 'blow' (of wind) and 'exhale a pleasant odor, be fragrant.'" [Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, edited by R. L. Harris, 1980, Vol. 2, p. 586.]

> APPLE: The apple tree (Pyrus malus) is mentioned mainly in The Song of Solomon, where the expressions of love by the Shulammite's shepherd companion are likened to the pleasant shade of the apple tree and the sweetness of its fruit. (Ca 2-3, 5) In turn, he compares her breath to the fragrance of apples. (Ca 7-8; see also 8-5.) In the Proverbs (25-11) appropriate, opportune speech is likened to "apples of gold in silver carvings."

> Aloha: An interpreter of Hawaiian culture once told me that this onomatopoeic word functionally, if not literally, means something like: "here's breath from my chest". The (now) verbal greeting is an abstraction of what was once a warm in(to)-your-face breathy ritual of familiarization and trust. (That might be apocryphal.)

Something of this nature -"nose kissing"- was also a standard of intimacy among the Inuit (and modern kissing is not without olfactory components). Here in my home, it's frequently a greeting between my cats. Kitty "Circe", is a passionate nose kisser with me as well. (I believe this is distinct from the common practice of cats to "mark" their owners with glancing cheek strokes --which they also do.)

(End of 4th installment)

Appendix

Published in the March 2006 issue of The Progressive

Enough of the D.C. Dems
by Molly Ivins

Mah fellow progressives, now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the party. I don’t know about you, but I have had it with the D.C. Democrats, had it with the DLC Democrats, had it with every calculating, equivocating, triangulating, straddling, hair-splitting son of a bitch up there, and that includes Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I will not be supporting Senator Clinton because: a) she has no clear stand on the war and b) Terri Schiavo and flag-burning are not issues where you reach out to the other side and try to split the difference. You want to talk about lowering abortion rates through cooperation on sex education and contraception, fine, but don’t jack with stuff that is pure rightwing firewater.

I can’t see a damn soul in D.C. except Russ Feingold who is even worth considering for President. The rest of them seem to me so poisonously in hock to this system of legalized bribery they can’t even see straight.

Look at their reaction to this Abramoff scandal. They’re talking about “a lobby reform package.” We don’t need a lobby reform package, you dimwits, we need full public financing of campaigns, and every single one of you who spends half your time whoring after special interest contributions knows it. The Abramoff scandal is a once in a lifetime gift—a perfect lesson on what’s wrong with the system being laid out for people to see. Run with it, don’t mess around with little patches, and fix the system.

As usual, the Democrats have forty good issues on their side and want to run on thirty-nine of them. Here are three they should stick to:

1) Iraq is making terrorism worse; it’s a breeding ground. We need to extricate ourselves as soon as possible. We are not helping the Iraqis by staying.

2) Full public financing of campaigns so as to drive the moneylenders from the halls of Washington.

3) Single-payer health insurance.

Every Democrat I talk to is appalled at the sheer gutlessness and spinelessness of the Democratic performance. The party is still cringing at the thought of being called, ooh-ooh, “unpatriotic” by a bunch of rightwingers.

Take “unpatriotic” and shove it. How dare they do this to our country? “Unpatriotic”? These people have ruined the American military! Not to mention the economy, the middle class, and our reputation in the world. Everything they touch turns to dirt, including Medicare prescription drugs and hurricane relief.

This is not a time for a candidate who will offend no one; it is time for a candidate who takes clear stands and kicks ass.

Who are these idiots talking about Warner of Virginia? Being anodyne is not sufficient qualification for being President. And if there’s nobody in Washington and we can’t find a Democratic governor, let’s run Bill Moyers, or Oprah, or some university president with ethics and charisma.

What happens now is not up to the has-beens in Washington who run this party. It is up to us. So let’s get off our butts and start building a progressive movement that can block the nomination of Hillary Clinton or any other candidate who supposedly has “all the money sewed up.”

I am tired of having the party nomination decided before the first primary vote is cast, tired of having the party beholden to the same old Establishment money.

We can raise our own money on the Internet, and we know it. Howard Dean raised $42 million, largely on the web, with a late start when he was running for President, and that ain’t chicken feed. If we double it, it gives us the lock on the nomination. So let’s go find a good candidate early and organize the shit out of our side.

Molly Ivins writes in this space every month. Her latest book is “Who Let the Dogs In?”

© 2006 The Progressive

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From: http://www.brainconnection.com/topics/?main=fa/evolution-language3

I think this helps:

What is Language?

Before investigating how language came in to being, we must first decide what language is. When alone in a quiet space, one may think in a continuous stream of internal speech. At such times, language seems to be an integral part of thought. But there is no evidence that language is essential to any particular cognitive operation. Damage to the brain has for some patients resulted in a complete loss of speech, both external and internal, but researchers have been unable to correlate cognitive deficits with this loss. In his book Origins of the Modern Mind, Merlin Donald compares the loss of language in these patients to the loss of a sensory system. The patients have lost a tool that greatly simplifies life in the world, but like a blind or deaf person, there is no diminished intellect or consciousness that accompanies this loss.

Language is thought to be a mechanism for transmitting the information within thoughts. One experiment used to demonstrate this idea requires subjects to listen to a short passage of several sentences. The subjects are then asked to repeat the passage. Most subjects accurately convey the gist of the passage in the sentences they produce, but they do not come close to repeating the sentences verbatim. It appears as if two transformations have occurred. Upon hearing the passage, the subjects convert the language of the passage into a more abstract representation of its meaning, which is more easily stored within memory. In order to recreate the passage, the subject recalls this representation and converts its meaning back into language.

This separation of thought and language is less intuitive than it might be because many people find language to be a powerful tool with which to manipulate their thoughts. It provides a mechanism to internally rehearse, critique, and modify thoughts. Language allows us to apply a common set of faculties to our own ideas and the ideas of others presented through speech. This internal form of communication is a powerful tool for a social animal and could certainly be in part responsible for the strong selective pressures for improved language use.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From: http://www.commondreams.org/views05/1017-28.htm

"However, now that I am well into my seventh decade of life and very near retirement, I have come to the conclusion that the world basically sucks, that there are few who seem to have the investigative courage to take a good hard look at things that, if discovered, would no doubt destroy one’s image of a land that can do no wrong, one that they believe has somehow received the eternal blessing of God. So I must ask: How is it that we have become such a mindless nation, a society populated by deadheads, folks who seem to have little desire to look beyond the thinly-veneered surface of life?"   ---Doug Soderstrom

As published on Thursday, October 6, 2005 in www.CommonDreams.org:

American Democracy in Trouble
It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse
Keynote Speech by Al Gore at the
We Media Conference in New York, NY
October 5, 2005

I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions.

How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered "an alternate universe"?

I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11, 2001. But more than four years later, between a third and a half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and supporting the attack.

At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O.J. trial was just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. But now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.

Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does it feel right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the practice? And does it feel right to have no ongoing discussion of whether or not this abhorrent, medieval behavior is being carried out in the name of the American people? If the gap between rich and poor is widening steadily and economic stress is mounting for low-income families, why do we seem increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our role as citizens?

On the eve of the nation's decision to invade Iraq, our longest serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor asked: "Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?"

The decision that was then being considered by the Senate with virtually no meaningful debate turned out to be a fateful one. A few days ago, the former head of the National Security Agency, Retired Lt. General William Odom, said, "The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history."

But whether you agree with his assessment or not, Senator Byrd's question is like the others that I have just posed here: he was saying, in effect, this is strange, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to have full and vigorous debates about questions as important as the choice between war and peace?

Those of us who have served in the Senate and watched it change over time, could volunteer an answer to Senator Byrd's two questions: the Senate was silent on the eve of war because Senators don't feel that what they say on the floor of the Senate really matters that much any more. And the chamber was empty because the Senators were somewhere else: they were in fundraisers collecting money from special interests in order to buy 30-second TVcommercials for their next re-election campaign.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was - at least for a short time - a quality of vividness and clarity of focus in our public discourse that reminded some Americans - including some journalists - that vividness and clarity used to be more common in the way we talk with one another about the problems and choices that we face. But then, like a passing summer storm, the moment faded.

In fact there was a time when America's public discourse was consistently much more vivid, focused and clear. Our Founders, probably the most literate generation in all of history, used words with astonishing precision and believed in the Rule of Reason.

Their faith in the viability of Representative Democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry. But they placed particular emphasis on insuring that the public could be well- informed. And they took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas in order to ensure the free-flow of knowledge.

The values that Americans had brought from Europe to the New World had grown out of the sudden explosion of literacy and knowledge after Gutenberg's disruptive invention broke up the stagnant medieval information monopoly and triggered the Reformation, Humanism, and the Enlightenment and enshrined a new sovereign: the "Rule of Reason."

Indeed, the self-governing republic they had the audacity to establish was later named by the historian Henry Steele Commager as "the Empire of Reason."

Our founders knew all about the Roman Forum and the Agora in ancient Athens. They also understood quite well that in America, our public forum would be an ongoing conversation about democracy in which individual citizens would participate not only by speaking directly in the presence of others -- but more commonly by communicating with their fellow citizens over great distances by means of the printed word. Thus they not only protected Freedom of Assembly as a basic right, they made a special point - in the First Amendment - of protecting the freedom of the printing press.

Their world was dominated by the printed word. Just as the proverbial fish doesn't know it lives in water, the United States in its first half century knew nothing but the world of print: the Bible, Thomas Paine's fiery call to revolution, the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution , our laws, the Congressional Record, newspapers and books.

Though they feared that a government might try to censor the printing press - as King George had done - they could not imagine that America's public discourse would ever consist mainly of something other than words in print.

And yet, as we meet here this morning, more than 40 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers and, for the most part, resisting the temptation to inflate their circulation numbers. Reading itself is in sharp decline, not only in our country but in most of the world. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by television.

Radio, the internet, movies, telephones, and other media all now vie for our attention - but it is television that still completely dominates the flow of information in modern America. In fact, according to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of four hours and 28 minutes every day -- 90 minutes more than the world average.

When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time that the average American has. And for younger Americans, the average is even higher.

The internet is a formidable new medium of communication, but it is important to note that it still doesn't hold a candle to television. Indeed, studies show that the majority of Internet users are actually simultaneously watching television while they are online. There is an important reason why television maintains such a hold on its viewers in a way that the internet does not, but I'll get to that in a few minutes.

Television first overtook newsprint to become the dominant source of information in America in 1963. But for the next two decades, the television networks mimicked the nation's leading newspapers by faithfully following the standards of the journalism profession. Indeed, men like Edward R. Murrow led the profession in raising the bar.

But all the while, television's share of the total audience for news and information continued to grow -- and its lead over newsprint continued to expand. And then one day, a smart young political consultant turned to an older elected official and succinctly described a new reality in America's public discourse: "If it's not on television, it doesn't exist."

But some extremely important elements of American Democracy have been pushed to the sidelines . And the most prominent casualty has been the "marketplace of ideas" that was so beloved and so carefully protected by our Founders. It effectively no longer exists.

It is not that we no longer share ideas with one another about public matters; of course we do. But the "Public Forum" in which our Founders searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of Reason has been grossly distorted and "restructured" beyond all recognition.

And here is my point: it is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the "strangeness" that now continually haunts our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation.

Whether it is called a Public Forum, or a "Public Sphere" , or a marketplace of ideas, the reality of open and free public discussion and debate was considered central to the operation of our democracy in America's earliest decades.

In fact, our first self-expression as a nation - "We the People" - made it clear where the ultimate source of authority lay. It was universally understood that the ultimate check and balance for American government was its accountability to the people. And the public forum was the place where the people held the government accountable. That is why it was so important that the marketplace of ideas operated independent from and beyond the authority of government.

The three most important characteristics of this marketplace of ideas were:

1) It was open to every individual, with no barriers to entry, save the necessity of literacy. This access, it is crucial to add, applied not only to the receipt of information but also to the ability to contribute information directly into the flow of ideas that was available to all; 2) The fate of ideas contributed by individuals depended, for the most part, on an emergent Meritocracy of Ideas. Those judged by the market to be good rose to the top, regardless of the wealth or class of the individual responsible for them; 3) The accepted rules of discourse presumed that the participants were all governed by an unspoken duty to search for general agreement. That is what a "Conversation of Democracy" is all about.

What resulted from this shared democratic enterprise was a startling new development in human history: for the first time, knowledge regularly mediated between wealth and power.

The liberating force of this new American reality was thrilling to all humankind. Thomas Jefferson declared, "I have sworn upon the alter of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." It ennobled the individual and unleashed the creativity of the human spirit. It inspired people everywhere to dream of what they could yet become. And it emboldened Americans to bravely explore the farther frontiers of freedom - for African Americans, for women, and eventually, we still dream, for all.

And just as knowledge now mediated between wealth and power, self- government was understood to be the instrument with which the people embodied their reasoned judgments into law. The Rule of Reason under- girded and strengthened the rule of law.

But to an extent seldom appreciated, all of this - including especially the ability of the American people to exercise the reasoned collective judgments presumed in our Founders' design -- depended on the particular characteristics of the marketplace of ideas as it operated during the Age of Print.

Consider the rules by which our present "public forum" now operates, and how different they are from the forum our Founders knew. Instead of the easy and free access individuals had to participate in the national conversation by means of the printed word, the world of television makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation today.

Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America. They were easily accessible and operated by printers eager to typeset essays, pamphlets, books or flyers.

Television stations and networks, by contrast, are almost completely inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in ideas contributed by individual citizens.

Ironically, television programming is actually more accessible to more people than any source of information has ever been in all of history. But here is the crucial distinction: it is accessible in only one direction; there is no true interactivity, and certainly no conversation.

The number of cables connecting to homes is limited in each community and usually forms a natural monopoly. The broadcast and satellite spectrum is likewise a scarce and limited resource controlled by a few. The production of programming has been centralized and has usually required a massive capital investment. So for these and other reasons, an ever-smaller number of large corporations control virtually all of the television programming in America.

Soon after television established its dominance over print, young people who realized they were being shut out of the dialogue of democracy came up with a new form of expression in an effort to join the national conversation: the "demonstration." This new form of expression, which began in the 1960s, was essentially a poor quality theatrical production designed to capture the attention of the television cameras long enough to hold up a sign with a few printed words to convey, however plaintively, a message to the American people. Even this outlet is now rarely an avenue for expression on national television.

So, unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in the wake of the printing press, there is virtually no exchange of ideas at all in television's domain. My partner Joel Hyatt and I are trying to change that - at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps not coincidentally, we are the only independently owned news and information network in all of American television.

It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no "meritocracy of ideas" on television. To the extent that there is a "marketplace" of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.

The German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, describes what has happened as "the refeudalization of the public sphere." That may sound like gobbledygook, but it's a phrase that packs a lot of meaning. The feudal system which thrived before the printing press democratized knowledge and made the idea of America thinkable, was a system in which wealth and power were intimately intertwined, and where knowledge played no mediating role whatsoever. The great mass of the people were ignorant. And their powerlessness was born of their ignorance.

It did not come as a surprise that the concentration of control over this powerful one-way medium carries with it the potential for damaging the operations of our democracy. As early as the 1920s, when the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in the United States, there was immediate apprehension about its potential impact on democracy. One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, "no nation can be free."

As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. -- including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine - though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.

And radio is not the only place where big changes have taken place. Television news has undergone a series of dramatic changes. The movie "Network," which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1976, was presented as a farce but was actually a prophecy. The journalism profession morphed into the news business, which became the media industry and is now completely owned by conglomerates.

The news divisions - which used to be seen as serving a public interest and were subsidized by the rest of the network - are now seen as profit centers designed to generate revenue and, more importantly, to advance the larger agenda of the corporation of which they are a small part. They have fewer reporters, fewer stories, smaller budgets, less travel, fewer bureaus, less independent judgment, more vulnerability to influence by management, and more dependence on government sources and canned public relations hand-outs. This tragedy is compounded by the ironic fact that this generation of journalists is the best trained and most highly skilled in the history of their profession. But they are usually not allowed to do the job they have been trained to do.

The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek. They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments. They paid actors to make make phony video press releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President.

For these and other reasons, The US Press was recently found in a comprehensive international study to be only the 27th freest press in the world. And that too seems strange to me.

Among the other factors damaging our public discourse in the media, the imposition by management of entertainment values on the journalism profession has resulted in scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news. As recently stated by Dan Rather - who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after angering the White House - television news has been "dumbed down and tarted up."

The coverage of political campaigns focuses on the "horse race" and little else. And the well-known axiom that guides most local television news is "if it bleeds, it leads." (To which some disheartened journalists add, "If it thinks, it stinks.")

In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue state America agree on is that they don't trust the news media anymore.

Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to "glue eyeballs to the screen" in order to build ratings and sell advertising. If you have any doubt, just look at what's on: The Robert Blake trial. The Laci Peterson tragedy. The Michael Jackson trial. The Runaway Bride. The search in Aruba. The latest twist in various celebrity couplings, and on and on and on.

And more importantly, notice what is not on: the global climate crisis, the nation's fiscal catastrophe, the hollowing out of America's industrial base, and a long list of other serious public questions that need to be addressed by the American people.

One morning not long ago, I flipped on one of the news programs in hopes of seeing information about an important world event that had happened earlier that day. But the lead story was about a young man who had been hiccupping for three years. And I must say, it was interesting; he had trouble getting dates. But what I didn't see was news.

This was the point made by Jon Stewart, the brilliant host of "The Daily Show," when he visited CNN's "Crossfire": there should be a distinction between news and entertainment.

And it really matters because the subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: it leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both.

One of the only avenues left for the expression of public or political ideas on television is through the purchase of advertising, usually in 30-second chunks. These short commercials are now the principal form of communication between candidates and voters. As a result, our elected officials now spend all of their time raising money to purchase these ads.

That is why the House and Senate campaign committees now search for candidates who are multi-millionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources. As one consequence, the halls of Congress are now filling up with the wealthy.

Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the only means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue by one means or another to dominate American politic s. And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power.

And what if an individual citizen, or a group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But they are not even allowed to do that.

Moveon.org tried to buy ads last year to express opposition to Bush's Medicare proposal which was then being debated by Congress. They were told "issue advocacy" was not permissible. Then, one of the networks that had refused the Moveon ad began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the President's Medicare proposal. So Moveon complained and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporary, I mean it was removed until the White House complained and the network immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the Moveon ad.

The advertising of products, of course, is the real purpose of television. And it is difficult to overstate the extent to which modern pervasive electronic advertising has reshaped our society. In the 1950s, John Kenneth Galbraith first described the way in which advertising has altered the classical relationship by which supply and demand are balanced over time by the invisible hand of the marketplace. According to Galbraith, modern advertising campaigns were beginning to create high levels of demand for products that consumers never knew they wanted, much less needed.

The same phenomenon Galbraith noticed in the commercial marketplace is now the dominant fact of life in what used to be America's marketplace for ideas. The inherent value or validity of political propositions put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the perceptions of voters.

Our democracy has been hallowed out. The opinions of the voters are, in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products is artificially created. Decades ago Walter Lippman wrote, "the manufacture of consent...was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy...but it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique...under the impact of propaganda, it is no longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of democracy."

Like you, I recoil at Lippman's cynical dismissal of America's gift to human history. But in order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum and create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the Rule of Reason. We must, for example, stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth.

I don't know all the answers, but along with my partner, Joel Hyatt, I am trying to work within the medium of television to recreate a multi- way conversation that includes individuals and operates according to a meritocracy of ideas. If you would like to know more, we are having a press conference on Friday morning at the Regency Hotel.

We are learning some fascinating lessons about the way decisions are made in the television industry, and it may well be that the public would be well served by some changes in law and policy to stimulate more diversity of viewpoints and a higher regard for the public interest. But we are succeeding within the marketplace by reaching out to individuals and asking them to co-create our network.

The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet. Indeed, Current TV relies on video streaming over the Internet as the means by which individuals send us what we call viewer-created content or VC squared. We also rely on the Internet for the two-way conversation that we have every day with our viewers enabling them to participate in the decisions on programming our network.

I know that many of you attending this conference are also working on creative ways to use the Internet as a means for bringing more voices into America's ongoing conversation. I salute you as kindred spirits and wish you every success.

I want to close with the two things I've learned about the Internet that are most directly relevant to the conference that you are having here today.

First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks the single most powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its packet-switching architecture, and its continued reliance on a wide variety of bandwidth connections (including the so-called "last mile" to the home), it does not support the real-time mass distribution of full-motion video.

Make no mistake, full-motion video is what makes television such a powerful medium. Our brains - like the brains of all vertebrates - are hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in our field of vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look. When our evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African savanna a million years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones who didn't look are not our ancestors. The ones who did look passed on to us the genetic trait that neuroscientists call "the establishing reflex." And that is the brain syndrome activated by television continuously - sometimes as frequently as once per second. That is the reason why the industry phrase, "glue eyeballs to the screen," is actually more than a glib and idle boast. It is also a major part of the reason why Americans watch the TV screen an average of four and a half hours a day.

It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what the industry calls "time shifting" and personalize their television watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet's capacity for carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America's democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America's democracy is at grave risk.

The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that to happen.We must ensure by all means possible that this medium of democracy's future develops in the mold of the open and free marketplace of ideas that our Founders knew was essential to the health and survival of freedom.

Another relavent work by Mihai Nadin can be read at:---

http://www.semantikon.com/design/The%20Civilization%20of%20Illiteracy.txt

--and see: http://www.code.uni-wuppertal.de/uk/civilization/

By Fitrakis and Wasserman in the 10/18/05 Columbus Ohio Free Press:

And until the left faces the rot that defines the Democratic Party, there is no hope for a fair election in this country. In other words: those who think the White House can be retaken in 2008, but refuse to face the theft of the vote in 2004, should prepare to be ruled by the likes of Jeb Bush, now and forever.

Before we go into the sordid details, we have to ask: exactly what is it about Team Bush that makes people think they could not or would not steal an American election? Do they lack funds? Do they lack expertise? Is there something in the Machiavellian/mobster moral code of Karl Rove and the Bush Family that would prevent them from doing here what they've been doing throughout the Third World for so long?

CIA meister Poppy Bush long ago perfected the art and science of stealing elections. US manipulators have interfered with and tipped elections for decades. Why should Ohio be any different? Especially when all the world knew control of the most powerful office on earth would be decided right here.

From http://www.911truth.org

9/11: Key to Political Transformation

 -- A belated strategic initiative to turn the world around
     by W. David Kubiak

Given the momentum and added troop strength of the corporate forces now in power, citizens will face unending appeals this year to help combat firestorms on many different fronts.

Already we are struggling to prioritize our efforts to stop war atrocities, torturers' appointments, escalating Pentagon appropriations, horrific new weapons, the resurrection of Star Wars, and the imminent draft, not to mention environmental assaults, our ballooning debt, attacks on our rights, the slashing of the social safety net, and a dozen other centrifugal symptoms of the sickness at the top.

Alternatively we could step back a pace or two and see where all this carnage connects and focus on a strategy that might stop it all at once.

We need what social analyst George Lakoff calls a "strategic initiative" - a plan in which a change in one critical area has automatic reverberating effects in many, many, many other realms.
 

THE SOURCE OF DARK FORCE

Looking at the onslaughts we face, it's obvious that this administration's primary source of war-making, rights-taking, vote-raking power is still and always has been the "official 9/11 story." The exquisitely timed "surprise attack" it portrays instantly justified what we now know was a long planned agenda to take us into endless war, crippling debt and constitutional twilight.

There is now an enormous amount of scholarly evidence and expert testimony that a) clearly demonstrates the official 9/11 story is a sham, and b) supports the millions of New Yorkers who, according to a recent Zogby poll, believe that top US officials "consciously" allowed the attacks to happen and that we desperately need a new investigation now.

This is no longer a fringe position. Identical calls have been made by fifty victim families and over one hundred prominent Americans including three 2004 presidential candidates [Nader (Ind), Cobb (Green), Badnarik (Libertarian)], respected rabbis and imams, historians and legislators, military officials and diplomats, as well as celebrated leaders from the environmental, alternative economics and "peace & justice" communities. Examining these eminent names on the 9/11 Truth Statement at  911truth.org will quickly show that with regard to 9/11 at least, today's so-called "conspiracy theorists" are not who they used to be.

Indeed one of America's greatest theologians, Dr. David Ray Griffin, methodically demolished the credibility of the Kean Commission cover-up in his latest book, "The 9/11 Commission Report - Omissions and Distortions."

As this extraordinary breadth of skepticism clearly signifies, the demand for 9/11 truth is not about to go away. It is not simply a matter of belated justice for the tragedy's immediate victims. The attacks have since been relentlessly exploited to keep generating new victims for many years on many fronts both here at home and in places far away.

UNPLUGGING THE NEOCON POWER SUPPLY

The fabricated "official 9/11 story" has in fact empowered so many subsequent offenses that 9/11 truth has become the mother of all issues and remains the key to widespread redress.

Vocabulary

From: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/community/columns/secmgmt/sm1104.mspxV

--The Oxford English Dictionary contains 616,500 words, although only spelling bee contestants and students sitting for college entrance exams bother with 614,000 of those words. In reality, the average vocabulary of an American (I will refrain from any of the myriad cheap shots any righteous European would insert here) is estimated from 10,000-20,000 by linguist Richard Lederer to 50,000-70,000 by linguist James L. Fidelholtz. Both authorities agree that the vast majority is recall vocabulary – i.e., you recognize a word if you hear it, but you would not use it. The average person would only use a fraction of that vocabulary. (See:

    http://oncampus.richmond.edu/academics/journalism/chal.html

    http://oncampus.richmond.edu/academics/journalism/vocab.html