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Belmont Club

The Destruction of Writing

March 18th, 2013 - 3:07 pm

Here’s a message from the Consilium of Europa — that’s what it’s actually called — on the Cyprus crisis.  Imagine for a moment that we are communications intelligence specialists tasked with forming some estimate of the people who composed it. We might begin by noting the message in its linguistic conventions is characteristic of what might be called EU-Speak.

EU-Speak contains words rarely if ever encountered in ordinary English speech; words like ‘progressivity’.   It  is larded with stock phrases that say in ten words what people normally convey in one. Why is it written this way?

Statement by the Eurogroup President on Cyprus

The Eurogroup held a teleconference this evening to take stock of the situation in Cyprus.

I recall that the political agreement reached on 16 March on the cornerstones of the adjustment programme and the financing envelope for Cyprus reflects the consensus reached by the Cypriot government with the Eurogroup. The implementation of the reform measures included in the draft programme is the best guarantee for a more prosperous future for Cyprus and its citizens, through a viable financial sector, sound public finances and sustainable economic growth.

I reiterate that the stability levy on deposits is a one-off measure. This measure will  — together with the international financial support — be used to restore the viability of the Cypriot banking system and hence, safeguard financial stability in Cyprus. In the absence of this measure, Cyprus would have faced scenarios that would have left deposit holders significantly worse off.

The Eurogroup continues to be of the view that small l depositors should be treated differently from large depositors and reaffirms the importance of fully guaranteeing deposits below EUR 100.000. The Cypriot authorities will introduce more progressivity in the one-off levy compared to what was agreed on 16 March, provided that it continues yielding the targeted reduction of the financing envelope and, hence, not impact the overall amount of financial assistance up to EUR 10bn.

The Eurogroup takes note of the authorities’ decision to declare a temporary bank holiday in Cyprus on 19-20 March 2013 to safeguard the stability of the financial sector, and urges a swift decision by the Cypriot authorities and parliament to rapidly implement the agreed measures.

The euro area Member States stand ready to assist Cyprus in its reform efforts on the basis of the agreed adjustment programme.

EU-speak is a subdialect of a language one might call International Bureaucratese. Every UN document is written in IB. For example, there is the 2012 Global Partnership in Develpment Report, Making Rhetoric a Reality, a title curious in itself. But its contents are almost impossible to comprehend. A random paragraph from the report illustrates this:

The waning of support for the global partnership for development may be understandable in the context of a protracted economic and financial crisis. But the global partnership for development should be seen as a “positive-sum game”. There is positive feedback when the economies of development partner countries achieve robust growth and become dynamic markets for world trade and investment. Unsustainable pressures on the Earth’s natural limits are a further reason why the global partnership should be seen as an opportunity to yield positive-sum outcomes. Massive investments are needed for climate change mitigation and adaptation and other dimensions of environmental protection with global ramifications. Such investment will come about only through col lective action — nationally, of course, but also, and foremost, internationally. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) committed itself in this regard to strengthening international cooperation to address challenges related to sustainable development for all. The international community cannot afford not to honour those commitments. But how credible can that agenda be if we have not delivered on previous commitments to achieve the MDGs? It will be credible only if the promises made are indeed fulfilled and rhetoric becomes reality.

Say what?

Although slightly different from EU-speak, IB has the same signature: the same obscure word usage and the infestation of stock phrases almost devoid of actual meaning.

As comm analysts we could take the approach that it is comprehensible to those who know the language. But there is a more interesting possibility.  It deliberately contains little, if any, meaning at all.

Readers may remember Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University. “In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies” with the express intention of demonstrating that a submission in intentional gibberish would be greeted with rave reviews.

The article “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”, published in the Social Text Spring/Summer 1996 “Science Wars” issue, proposed that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct. At that time, the journal did not practice academic peer review and did not submit the article for outside expert review by a physicist. On its date of publication (May 1996), Sokal revealed in Lingua Franca that the article was a hoax, identifying it as “a pastiche of Left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense . . . structured around the silliest quotations [by postmodernist academics] he could find about mathematics and physics”

He sent them random text and to his surprise it was well received. Sokal was roundly criticized for being “dishonest”. But he had singularly demonstrated that nobody actually knew what the hoax article said. In fact it said nothing.  But amazingly, every reader pretended to his own idea what it said so that if you had asked 100 people to summarize it, one might have received 100 completely different answers in earnest.

Sokal’s experiment illuminates both EU-speak and International Bureaucratese. Perhaps for all their length and verbosity, these languages are designed to communicate the minimum possible information. What it can say will often be contradictory, ambiguous or plain nonsense. Yet this the language in which the transnational elite prefers to communicate. Why?

Because linguistic poverty is a feature, not a bug.

One is tempted to dismiss EU-speak as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” But suppose its real purpose is to mean anything you want it to mean on any occasion. To act as a  linguistic blank canvas whose complete absence of inherent meaning makes it possible to lie with impunity, since one can alter the meaning of declarations and twist it into any shape required.

Perhaps the two greatest commentators on the corruption of language were George Orwell and Jesus Christ. Orwell’s theory of Newspeak is well known. But Christ had something interesting to say too about lies. He said in the famous John 8 passage, that lies were the “native language of the devil.”

Jesus said to them … “why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil … for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!”

Orwell’s concept is remarkably similar. His fictional Newspeak  is actually designed to make it ‘impossible to understand exactly what the statement means, since all concepts and words that can be used to argue against Big Brother would be eradicated from the language.’

By impoverishing language, Orwell argued, it would be possible to ‘prevent thinking’. Orwell’s conclusion is remarkably identical to Christ’s own zinger in John 8. If you could think aright, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”


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Top Rated Comments   
"there is little chance of Cyprus's banks reopening before next Tuesday..." -- Guardian -- http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/mar/19/eurozone-crisis-cyprus-bailout-government-vote

Let me try some UN-Speak.

"In order to sustainably and equitable meet the liquidity requirements of the autochtonous inhabitants, of whatever faith tradition, a partnership of duly elected Cypriot officials has put forward a proposal to, in accordance with the International Year of the Vacation, continue non-working in the financial sector until Tuesday, Brussels Standard Time, or to some such day as may be appropriately agreed by the Consolium of Europa."

Translation: "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Any of y’all ever read Aristotle’s explanation of why there could be no such thing as a vacuum?

It amounted to saying that since a vacuum was nothing it could not have a name and so if it was ever named it could not be a vacuum.

This sounds absurd, but that absurd logic shut down development of things such as pumps and steam engines for a couple of thousand years or so. Aristotle’s teachings became Catholic Church dogma, and it took the English rejection of the Pope’s control in the areas of politics and religion, and the subsequent repulse of the Spanish Armada in the area of military power, to create an environment where alternative developments could be pursued. As a result England was able to become the dominant industrial power of its time. I recommend the book “The Most Powerful Idea in the World” on this subject.

Similarly, the Left wishes to shut down the ability to discuss ideas that threaten its power. While supposedly abhorring religious dogma, in reality they embrace their version of it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
'So long as Germany subsidizes “Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain” (PIIGS), Germany gets to call itself a monetary empire. Some empire.'

only up to 27% (her part of the recuing funds), clearings at the Bundesbank aren't subjected to be bailed out

I'm not worried for Germany, she does know how to protect herself

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (95)
All Comments   (95)
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It's all Bill Clinton's fault. He is the poster boy for "The Destruction of Writing"

"It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not only can it happened here. It has happened here.

In 1933, Saint Roosevelt confiscated gold coins and bullion of American citizens. In return they were given $20.33 of paper money for each ounce of gold.

If they wanted to buy gold after that (which was illegal) they would have to pay $35 for each ounce of gold. Nice markup huh?

Holders of billions of dollars of US bonds that promised 49.19 oz of pure gold per $1000 of face value received paper money instead. Which somebody (foreign banks) could use 35 of to buy an ounce of gold. So the bonds were transmuted from the right to receive 50 $20 gold coins to a possibility of buying 28.6 oz of gold, if you were a foreigner. A 40% haircut.

10% seems downright civilized by way of contrast.

"Surely", you say,"the American people would not put up with such a theft. And certainly, the Supreme Court would find it it unconstitutional". Think again, white man. The people were as meek as little lambs. And Scotus swallowed it and said is there any thing else I can do for you sir?

Of course the Democrat peg boys who teach our children claim that this outrage was a an act of far sighted statesmanship.

No it wasn't. It was theft pure and simple, and that crime is the corrupt foundation of the Peoples Democratic Republic of the United States.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svdrAHn_LGo
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Loop holes:

Yes, the confiscation was as it was. At the time the left owned the government. Solid majorities. The only hold out was the SCOTUS.

Faced with this, FDR found a loop hole. He threatened to install enough judges to over-ride any judgements by expanding the number of justices.

In a mean spirited backlash, all hell broke loose. FDR doubled down and extended the Depression for a whole generation of Americans.

In short, FDR was the obama of his time.

Of course we know the the results...

Total failure.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, Marie Claude, I note your English has markedly improved lately: grammar, spelling, use of colloquialisms, etc. Is it still you? Someone else using your name?

Frankly I liked your old writing better. Maybe ''charming'' is a good word.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hunter:

Your post makes no sense. I am a pretty well read person from the ancients to medieval, to modern, to current. Never heard of Marie Claude in any reference, at any time.

Best I can tell from a search, it is just some big boobed chick who publishes a lot naked pictures of herself. Which makes your post even more senseless.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Never mind.

In general I always read the entire thead on Wretch's posts. Spoke too soon. Should read to the end before commenting as I usally do. My mistake.

Will not happen again. But then again there is a post from Marie Claude on this thread, please God tell me this is a joke.

But I will make Marie Claude a deal, she/he tells me what marie claude means and I will define the meaning of a chukalukabus.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
still the same !

my english improved since I became a usual english reader

Though only Americans appreciate my french idioms, the Brits, the Germans, and the Easteners hate them, especially the Easteners, that are proud to lecture a "arrogant" French on languages ;-)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
interesting tale about Aristotle and the vacuum, RWE3. I think it illustrates how our philosophical and linguistic constructs can limit our understanding, without our even realizing it.

Aristotle was hung up on the concept of the "Logos", the Word, the ephemeral "idea" of a thing that the Greek philosophers believed had to exist before the thing itself could actually exist. (Yes, the first couple verses of John are an expression of this much older concept) Aristotle was reasoning that a vacuum could never have a logos and therefore could not exist, failing to see that he himself had already named it. In all his sophistication, he couldn't see that concepts and things exist with no attachment to whether or not we can name, or even understand things. "There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

This is the same basic reason that it had to be the Arabic culture which popularized the mathematical idea of "Zero", which the Greeks and Romans could never do in spite of their sophistication. Their philosophy didn't allow them to go there.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hate to bust your bubble dude, but without the basic understanding such as Aristotle's "logos" then knowledge of any kind is subject to manipulation. To use Aristotles logic, "that what is, is not, if what is makes no damn difference, then that what is, is not." (Ok, I paraphrased).

There has to be a baseline. A starting point.

Logos: A point upon which all knowledge begins. It is not so much how much you know, it is the process upon which you as a human being discover the truths in the physical and spritual existence of life as a human being.

Aristotle also drove home as his mantra a quote for the ages:

"An unexaminded life is not worth living".

That examination requires as a requisite actual living. The question that will never be anserwed is the cosmology of our very existence. That is beyond our rational scope of our human experience as a rational thinking being, but it does portend to reach the spiritual side of our understanding that for some reason we actually exist.

This has nothing more to do with vacuums, nor the candles, nor the shadows in the cave.

You cannot pick and choose among the ancient philosphers particular works.

You have to read them all in sum in order to understand their meaning. They are not discrete texts to me considered seperately. To use your term, they cannot be read "in a vacuum."

The essence of your argument is that there is no "logos." Which logically leads to the conclusion that nothing can ever be known because without a beginning point the arguement can have no precedent upon which to proceed in any way. A tautology of chaos is the term I think Stalin coined.

Cannot be proven right or wrong due to the fact such does not formally exist in the structure of the question.

Also, the practical use of the number "0" originated in India (but does trace back to 2000 BC). The towel heads had nothing to do with it.

Just saying...

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"there is little chance of Cyprus's banks reopening before next Tuesday..." -- Guardian -- http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/mar/19/eurozone-crisis-cyprus-bailout-government-vote

Let me try some UN-Speak.

"In order to sustainably and equitable meet the liquidity requirements of the autochtonous inhabitants, of whatever faith tradition, a partnership of duly elected Cypriot officials has put forward a proposal to, in accordance with the International Year of the Vacation, continue non-working in the financial sector until Tuesday, Brussels Standard Time, or to some such day as may be appropriately agreed by the Consolium of Europa."

Translation: "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Our new economic system makes banking easier and more enjoyable. Now, just pay your fair share once and you're done -- you won't have to carry around so much heavy money every time you make a withdrawal. And, you can give a "thumbs up" to fellow sharers that are most interesting to you. If you haven't yet, register now -- it only takes a minute.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Let's think about this from the depositor's point of view. The reason Cyprus was borrowing money from the ECB was because their banks are bust. So if they ECB doesn't give Cyprus money there's ain't nothing to withdraw when the bank opens.

But the ECB was only willing to lend them money if they also took some of it. The depositors balked, so the deal is off, which means there still ain't no money in the bank. Even if the deal went through the depositors would be panicked and the banks would collapse from a run.

If Cyprus goes to their own currency they can print money to pay every depositor -- in their worthless local paper. So it's true you'll be paid in full, but you couldn't buy anything worth beans with it.

So no matter how you shake it, when the bank doors open whenever, all hell will break loose. The Russians can hardly be expected to sit around. They'll be the first to present their withdrawals. And they can't be honored. The depositors, the banks, the entire financial system of Cyprus is staring ruin in the face.

So if you had a 500,000 Euro in the bank, you life savings, that is just about gone. When the realization sinks in, you'll probably take what little you have left in your pocket and buy a 10 gallons of gas at the station and either set fire to the bank or set fire to yourself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Bingo! you got the situation nailed. That's why the ECB thought they were safe in pushing this deal - no other options, right?

But the ECB forgot that they are living in a glass house themselves. For all it's problems, Cypress is still part of the Euro system, and that system is supposed to be guaranteed. If Cypress can default on it's debts and deposits when things get tough, what's to stop Greece from doing the same? Or Italy, or Spain?

Now we can say that it isn't likely that they will do that, or whatever we want to say to make ourselves feel better - but the fact is that the FEAR of such a thing happening is going to start stealth runs on the banking assets of Greece, Italy, and Spain, just when they don't need the extra stress. And bank runs are one of those pure expressions of mob psychology - first a few people do it, then a few more, and then comes that moment when everyone realizes that it's a race for assets and they all hit it at once.

And that's when the system collapses.

best piece I've seen yet on the consequences of this move:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/03/19/cyprus_and_the_death_of_deposit_insurance_117513.html
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Re: UN-speak--I used to write for them. They don't let you use any figures of speech, because it's too hard to translate all that into 25 different languages. They love the phrase "inter alia" (a UN "tell," if you will). And they refer to the process of "translating" this fustian into stuff reporters and "parliamentarians" can read as "Englishing."

I kid you not.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I wanted to share this with you, fellow patriots. It's a moving moment in a baseball game in the 1970s of spontaneous patriotism that has been called "the greatest play in baseball history."

http://preview.tinyurl.com/cyevwtg

Why We Fight.

Semper fidelis.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Even Ezra Klein is scratching his head. "The euro zone will bail out Cyprus only if Cyprus will agree to take some 6 billion euros, strap them to a missile, and launch it directly at the currency union’s deposit insurance system. That strikes me as a far costlier solution than simply ponying up the 6 billion euros needed to save Cyprus. The fact is that Cyprus is a tiny country with a tiny economy. Saving it in such a way that you undermine the banking system of the entire euro zone seems insane."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/03/19/what-is-the-eurozone-doing/

The word Ezra Klein is looking for is "desperation". They're waiting for Steiner to save them. Well have I got news for them. Steiner ain't coming.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The liquidity promise from the EU is beyond desperation, and beyond insane, because *no* *one* knows how long it will be good for. Everyone with money in a Cypriot bank is thinking right now that it may hold for a day or two, until the withdrawals get too high - which means *Everyone* is going to race to withdraw everything they have 1 minute after the banks open.

In other words, a classic and catastrophic bank run on every bank in Cyprus is now guaranteed. Liquidity? Is the EU going to pump in the 17 billion euros needed to pay off depositers, when they just balked at 6 billion?

When this has happened in the Latin American countries, they quickly come round to the position that depositors can only withdraw 10% of their accounts per week, or something along those lines. Which just makes the situation even worse, as confidence collapses completely.

by thinking they didn't need a plan B, the EU has now put themselves in a box with no way out.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Forget Steiner -- "Where is Wenck?"

( FYI, SS General Wenck, not Steiner, was Adolf's last hope. He commanded German forces facing Americans to the southwest of Berlin.)

http://ww2gravestone.com/general/wenck-walther-boy-general

^^^^ Best account of the chaotic last gasp efforts.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
To correct: Not an SS General.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Save me Rick. Save me Reek."

Euro on defensive; market looks ahead to Bernanke -- http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/19/us-markets-forex-idUSBRE92E11120130319

"Round up the usual suspects."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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