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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » I Built That (A peice of fiction). (Page 2)

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Author Topic: I Built That (A peice of fiction).
Destineer
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OK, but that's not what you wrote, so you can see why I agreed with the guys that what you wrote is flat-out wrong as a paraphrase of what he said.

I don't see the words "before," "mostly" or "the important thing," or any synonyms for them, anywhere in the speech either. One can say that they're potentially part of a subtext to what he said, but it's not the job of fact checkers to interpret subtexts. Almost by definition, their job is to determine the literal meaning of the words someone actually said.

What I see being literally said is that no one's success is entirely the result of individual initiative, and everyone's success is in some part due to the actions of others. No mention is made of what the exact ratios are. (Although I suppose if it was 99.9% individual effort, there wouldn't be much point highlighting this issue. But if it was more like 75/25 individual/communal, so to speak, that would be entirely compatible with what he actually said.)

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Destineer
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It really almost pains me to make these points, by the way, when I think of what he ought to have said instead.

Something like, "Your less fortunate fellow citizens are also fellow human beings, your brothers and sisters. It's your moral duty to love them and do right by them, and not stand by while they suffer and stagnate, whether or not they meet your standard of what it takes to be a high-achieving, hard-working cowpoke."

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Mucus
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Glass half empty, glass half full.

Maybe we should really be applauding the fact that a Republican is promoting the idea that those who pay income tax are more virtuous than those moochers who manage to pay no tax. Come to Canada and many more of you can pay more income tax demonstrating your status as non-victimised independent people [Wink]

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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
OK, but that's not what you wrote, so you can see why I agreed with the guys that what you wrote is flat-out wrong as a paraphrase of what he said.

I don't see the words "before," "mostly" or "the important thing," or any synonyms for them, anywhere in the speech either. One can say that they're potentially part of a subtext to what he said, but it's not the job of fact checkers to interpret subtexts. Almost by definition, their job is to determine the literal meaning of the words someone actually said.

No, that's not the job they are doing. The job they are doing is interpreting what he said. He literally said the words "If you've got a business, you didn't build that." That's what he said, in plain English.

The fact checker, in this case, is saying that taking this statement at face value in isolation is unfair, and if you interpret it in the full context there is a more likely meaning. This is a perfectly fine argument to make, but don't try to pretend it isn't an argument.

These are not objective facts that can't be subjected to argument. The only agreed upon objective facts so far are what the actual words in his speech are.

Everything else, such as what he means, is an explanation, or interpretation. And subject to argument based on context, subtext, etc.

quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
What I see being literally said is that no one's success is entirely the result of individual initiative, and everyone's success is in some part due to the actions of others. No mention is made of what the exact ratios are. (Although I suppose if it was 99.9% individual effort, there wouldn't be much point highlighting this issue. But if it was more like 75/25 individual/communal, so to speak, that would be entirely compatible with what he actually said.)

Right. And I see him talking about how, if someone was successful, they had help from someone (government, specifically, as every single example he gives attests to). Whether he think that help amounts to 1% or 25% or 99% of the work done is actually immaterial to me right now. Because he explicitly does not acknowledge the possibility of success without government help.
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
It really almost pains me to make these points, by the way, when I think of what he ought to have said instead.

Well then thanks for doing so! I appreciate the discussion. [Smile]

quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
Something like, "Your less fortunate fellow citizens are also fellow human beings, your brothers and sisters. It's your moral duty to love them and do right by them, and not stand by while they suffer and stagnate, whether or not they meet your standard of what it takes to be a high-achieving, hard-working cowpoke."

I agree with you on one thing: I don't think anyone should have to meet other peoples' standards of hard-working (or much of anything, really) in order to be successful. And I think that the more we treat people as a collective, the more danger of coercion the outliers and minorities are in.

I also agree it's our moral duty to do right by other people, but I think we disagree a lot about what "do right by" means. [Wink]

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Destineer
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
No, that's not the job they are doing. The job they are doing is interpreting what he said. He literally said the words "If you've got a business, you didn't build that." That's what he said, in plain English.

I'm losing track of what you're saying a bit. Is the issue what the referent of 'that' is? I thought you were agreeing that 'that' referred to infrastructure, but if not, we can talk about which is the natural way to attribute the pronoun.

quote:

The fact checker, in this case, is saying that taking this statement at face value in isolation is unfair, and if you interpret it in the full context there is a more likely meaning. This is a perfectly fine argument to make, but don't try to pretend it isn't an argument.

Sure. It's an argument about the literal meaning of what he said, and not about any subtext it might have had. The idea is that, as with many sentences containing pronouns, its literal meaning can't be understood correctly in isolation from the earlier sentences he uttered.

For example, I might say,
quote:
Joe keeps some money under his mattress. If his bedroom window is open, I'm going to steal that.
We can indeed argue about whether the 'that' refers to the money, the mattress or the window. All three are grammatically possible readings of the quote. If you quoted the second sentence in isolation, you would think I meant I planned to steal the window. That would be a distortion.

None of this involves evaluating subtexts, though. It concerns only the literal meaning of what I said. Same for the question before the fact-finders.

quote:
Right. And I see him talking about how, if someone was successful, they had help from someone (government, specifically, as every single example he gives attests to). Whether he think that help amounts to 1% or 25% or 99% of the work done is actually immaterial to me right now. Because he explicitly does not acknowledge the possibility of success without government help.
That's probably because it is basically impossible, given our present system. That hasn't always been the case. If you lived on the frontier in the early 19th Century, it was possible to achieve some things literally without help from anyone. In the present-day US, that never happens.

I don't see any indication that he meant it's entirely impossible for any human being to ever achieve anything with 0% help from government-provided infrastructure. Rather, he observes--entirely correctly--that no one in present-day America has had 0% help.

He does imply something I would disagree with, by the way. Namely that the help you get from infrastructure is what makes the difference between those smart, hard-working people who succeed and the smart, hard-working people who fail. As you've said, everyone gets about the same help from the infrastructure, so that can't be the explanation. I would say in most cases, the explanation is probably luck (including initial circumstances, like Romney's wealthy family, under the purview of luck). Something a politician could never say, of course.

But that doesn't matter one way or another to how we interpret "You didn't build that."

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
Really? You heard the full quote in context and came to the conclusion that Obama was explicitly claiming individuals don't build businesses? Because that is the claim put forward by the Romney camp- specifically that Obama said something that he specifically *did not say*. There's not that much weasel room in this. You can disagree with the sentiment of the statement, but they are claiming he said something he didn't. Surely, you aren't.

Yeah, when I heard the full quote in context listening to Obama's speech, I interpreted it that way. Later I saw Jon Stewart mocking the Romney campaign for "cutting it" and "distorting it" and it took me a while to understand what Stewart's alternate interpretation was, or how on earth he'd gotten it.

Okay. You are totally disconnected from reality. Now I understand. I'm sorry, there is not a discussion to be had on this. You are wrong. If the reality of the video doesn't convince you, I will not.
That's an amazing argument! Thanks! [Smile]
Oh, no, not an argument. I decided you are not worth arguing with. So I am not arguing. DId you think I was arguing? I was not.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:

What I see being literally said is that no one's success is entirely the result of individual initiative, and everyone's success is in some part due to the actions of others. No mention is made of what the exact ratios are. (Although I suppose if it was 99.9% individual effort, there wouldn't be much point highlighting this issue. But if it was more like 75/25 individual/communal, so to speak, that would be entirely compatible with what he actually said.)

That's not "literally" what's being said... else it would be literally what he said. The substance of the statement *is* equivalent to the above however. I only take issue with people interpreting such a statement to mean that individual success is categorically *not* the result of individual initiative. That is simply not represented in the statement. The statement highlights the fact that individual success is not *entirely* the result of individual initiative. An interpretation that gleans the former is at best poor, and at worst flagrantly dishonest. If we can't parse the difference between the two, we have big problems. I suspect that we have big problems.
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:

Right. And I see him talking about how, if someone was successful, they had help from someone (government, specifically, as every single example he gives attests to). Whether he think that help amounts to 1% or 25% or 99% of the work done is actually immaterial to me right now. Because he explicitly does not acknowledge the possibility of success without government help.

Can you give me an example of such a success?
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:

Right. And I see him talking about how, if someone was successful, they had help from someone (government, specifically, as every single example he gives attests to). Whether he think that help amounts to 1% or 25% or 99% of the work done is actually immaterial to me right now. Because he explicitly does not acknowledge the possibility of success without government help.

Can you give me an example of such a success?
Nobody laughed at my wolf one, and I rarely make myself smile.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:


You think politifact is throwing the answer straight at me, because you think (like Orincoro below you) that the truth is patently obvious and anyone who disagrees with you is obviously wrong. But the truth isn't obvious. Informed people frequently disagree on this and many other issues, because they have varying explanations for the facts in evidence.

And all of this is predicated on the idea that my explanation is still relying on a misinterpretation of Obama.

No. No to all of this, including what is supposed to be 'obvious.'

1. Politifact is throwing the answer to the question as to 'why this is all about lying and distortions' at you; there has been purposefully deceptive editing and narratives provided about the clip since the moment he said it, and

2. Any individual misinterpretation you are having here is irrelevant to the deceptions that they — not you — are pretty much choosing to use.

Politifact (or, to be honest, pretty much any other fact check on the issue I could care to dredge up, since they are all pretty much wholly in agreement) IS advancing an argument, rather completely — to the extent I can just quote them verbatim. As for your own individual interpretations, I think I'll see where others can get with you first.

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Orincoro
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Of what value is such an acknowledgement? To what degree must that be qualified? I can have successful relationships without the help of the government. I can learn the guitar.

But then, we're in the same spiral. I walk on public streets. I look up chords on the internet. The government is everywhere, and touches our lives every day. That is the substance of the statement: saying government is bad is like saying air is bad. It's a simplistic, failing argument that government doesn't do anything right, because government is involved in *everything*, and we only focus on what it does less well than anything else. The challenge posed by Obama is for people to examine what their orientation "against" government means to them. Do they actually not like what the government does? Or do they actually just have issue with how the government does it? Because very often people think it's the former, and it's actually the latter.

So, can you have success, in business, without the "help" (and that's a highly qualified term), of the government? Pretty much no. Can you have success without the direct conscious involvement of government officials in your affairs? Yes. What did you expect Obama to say? What need is there of such qualifications when the implications of the statement speak to an argument a great deal deeper than that?

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Destineer
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quote:

That's not "literally" what's being said... else it would be literally what he said.

Ha, oops. I meant 'meant,' but I said 'said.'
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
quote:
Joe keeps some money under his mattress. If his bedroom window is open, I'm going to steal that.
We can indeed argue about whether the 'that' refers to the money, the mattress or the window. All three are grammatically possible readings of the quote. If you quoted the second sentence in isolation, you would think I meant I planned to steal the window. That would be a distortion.

"Joe keeps some money under his mattress. If he's got a credit card, I'm going to steal that."

What's being stolen? It's a lot less clear than in your example, isn't it? Even with the context.

Because the problem with your example is that nobody really steals windows, so it comes off as ridiculous. But the verb "build" can easily be paired with the noun "business," as easily as it can be paired with the nouns "road" or "bridge" or whatever.

So no, in plain English, there's plenty of room for that interpretation. Which was my first point, way back when. If that was the only point, though, once Obama clarified his position (arguably by the end of the speech, unarguably when he issued a comment a day or two later) the issue would be dropped.

But the bigger argument has always been the second point, that even with the correct interpretation of that particular statement, the sentiment was still one of denying individual responsibility.

Because that's what he did. He downplayed the role of personal responsibility with dismissive phrases like "It must be because I worked so hard... there are a lot of hard workin' people out there!" (Especially dismissive in the context of the speech, with tone and body language.)

He played up the role of government, indicating that nobody got there on their own... and "on their own" in context means "without help from government," since it's not unintentional that 100% of his examples are government services.

And now once again Kate or BB or someone will challenge me that I disagree with this. Which is the most surreal part of this conversation.

Half the responses to me are saying, in effect, "No, Obama didn't say: personal responsibility isn't enough, it's impossible to succeed without government," and the other half are essentially saying "Obama's right: personal responsibility isn't enough, it's impossible to succeed without government."

Do you guys really not see that?

(Note: In the above paragraph I didn't use quotes to delineate actual quotations, but rather to provide a clear separation from my text and the words I'm putting in your mouths. I know I paraphrased.)

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Kwea
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No. People are usually saying "No one makes it without help, and some of that help MIGHT be from the government.".

And for a lot of the really big issues, that IS where the help comes from, at times. The fact is that it isn't just charity, it's a freaking investment that is paid back over and over again for those people's whole life. If you help someone eat, and offer loans for education, and that person gets a better paying job and pays taxes for another 40 years..... then it is paid back many times over.

Not just the loan with interest.

If you bail out a company that directly employs 200,000 people, and indirectly employs many more than that when you factor in vendors, sales forces, parts companies and laborers....you don't JUST get the cash back when they pay it off, you get the revenue and taxes from their employees, AND you get to NOT pay them unemployment benefits for a year.

I don't want to invest in people who are already millionaires. They have enough. I want to invest in the people who don't have clothes, who want a better education, in children who struggle to eat.

I not only pay taxes gladly to help them, but I donate my time and additional cash as well. Not to mention I work as a hospice nurse helping those in need, often time those with no way to pay for their end of live care.


And then Romney tells me I consider myself a victim, that I am lazy, and he doesn't have to represent me or care about my opinion? He is a condescending, arrogant, privileged moron who has a proven, known track record of violating contract agreements and causing havoc wherever he spends his cash.

I see people, mainly hard-core Romney supporters, making statements like this constantly, but when I defend a statement of Obama's that is CLEARLY taken out of context, all of the sudden I am painted as a malingerer, a useless throw-away human being.

It boggles the mind. It really does. And it means I won't be voting Republican any time soon. The RNC made sure of one thing...I won't support any of those jokers, ever. They made me into a better Democrat than the Democrats ever did.

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Dan_Frank
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I can't really tell from your post how much of your last three paragraphs are directed at me, Kwea, or just ranting. But, in case they are, I'm not trying to call you any of those things. Okay?

If you're just ranting, then nevermind, carry on.

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Destineer
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quote:
So no, in plain English, there's plenty of room for that interpretation. Which was my first point, way back when. If that was the only point, though, once Obama clarified his position (arguably by the end of the speech, unarguably when he issued a comment a day or two later) the issue would be dropped.
Glad we agree about that! Obviously I will grant you that the pronoun antecedent ambiguity in BHO's quote is greater than it was in the quote I came up with.

quote:

Because that's what he did. He downplayed the role of personal responsibility with dismissive phrases like "It must be because I worked so hard... there are a lot of hard workin' people out there!" (Especially dismissive in the context of the speech, with tone and body language.)

'Downplay' is one of those words that doesn't mean much, as far as I can tell. Usually I find that when someone is accused of "downplaying" something, that means they said something you agree is factually correct but didn't put the right emphasis on the right words.

If he made some statement of fact that you think is false, that would be more interesting. (I've already agreed with you that his statement that infrastructure determines who succeeds and who doesn't is bogus.)

quote:
Half the responses to me are saying, in effect, "No, Obama didn't say: personal responsibility isn't enough, it's impossible to succeed without government," and the other half are essentially saying "Obama's right: personal responsibility isn't enough, it's impossible to succeed without government."
He did not say that individual initiative plays no part in anyone's success (which is the stance many critics, including you in your less careful post a page back, have attributed to him). He did say that government help plays some part in everyone's success.
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
'Downplay' is one of those words that doesn't mean much, as far as I can tell. Usually I find that when someone is accused of "downplaying" something, that means they said something you agree is factually correct but didn't put the right emphasis on the right words.

Hah!

Yeah, that's... a pretty fair point. [Smile]

The last time we had this conversation (me and Rakeesh mostly if I remember right) one of the things I said was... these parts of the speech: "they didn't get there on their own... I'm always struck by people who say..." who, exactly, are those bits directed at?

Because nobody I've ever heard of literally thinks they created a successful business 100% on their own with no help from any other human being. Or without utilizing government-monopolized public services like roads or whatever.

So if that's really all he's saying... it's sort of pointless. And a straw man, insofar as he implies there are people who are saying something contrary.

The only way his comments seem worth saying at all is if I read some more subtext into them. If I, in effect, read them as "downplaying" the role of individual effort and "playing up" the role of government.

Do you see what I mean, at all? Even if you disagree?

PS: As always, you're a treat to argue with. [Big Grin]

[ September 19, 2012, 08:28 PM: Message edited by: Dan_Frank ]

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Destineer
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Yeah, I get what you're saying.

But I don't think what he's saying is pointless, even without the subtext. One often hears objections to taxation on the basis that the government doesn't deserve anything that's yours. It's a view that seems, to me, to involve essentially zero nuance, because if correct it would justify lowering taxes all the way to zero. And it does seem to depend on the assumption that you're solely responsible for whatever success you've had (since you and you alone deserve to reap the rewards of that success).

I think that's the kind of notion that he's objecting to.

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Parkour
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
You guys aren't doing a very good job of something that should be very easy, namely spelling out for Dan exactly what's wrong with what he's saying.

It was accidentally worth reading the thread in reverse to this.
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Parkour:
quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
You guys aren't doing a very good job of something that should be very easy, namely spelling out for Dan exactly what's wrong with what he's saying.

It was accidentally worth reading the thread in reverse to this.
Why's that?
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Darth_Mauve
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Lets see if I can be a little clearer on why I started this thread.

The Obama folks said, "If you built a business, thank you, good work, but you did not build it alone."

The Romney folks replied, "See what he's saying? He's saying that you didn't build any of it."

That is where the deceit comes in.

But there is more.

In this world that the Romney Advertisers are pushing, and that a lot of Republican's are embracing is the following ideas.

1) The success of any company is due only to the skill of its owner. Luck, the hard work of the employees, the donations of the investors, the good will of the customers, and everything else in society does not matter.
2) If you want to succeed all you have to do is get off your lazy but and make a successful company.
3) The line between working for others and being on welfare is only who gives you money. Both mean you are lazy folks who could succeed if you would get off your backsides and simply build a successful company.
4) Hiring people, like building a successful company, is a true act of charity. Any reward you get, such as profits and labor to create those profits, are small pay back for those acts of charity.

These ideas are not to my advantage, nor are they to the advantage of the society as a whole.

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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Darth_Mauve:

In this world that the Romney Advertisers are pushing, and that a lot of Republican's are embracing is the following ideas.

1) The success of any company is due only to the skill of its owner. Luck, the hard work of the employees, the donations of the investors, the good will of the customers, and everything else in society does not matter.
2) If you want to succeed all you have to do is get off your lazy but and make a successful company.
3) The line between working for others and being on welfare is only who gives you money. Both mean you are lazy folks who could succeed if you would get off your backsides and simply build a successful company.
4) Hiring people, like building a successful company, is a true act of charity. Any reward you get, such as profits and labor to create those profits, are small pay back for those acts of charity.

These ideas are not to my advantage, nor are they to the advantage of the society as a whole.

They are also ideas that you have invented in your mind.
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