Saturday, April 13, 2002

Dysfunctional Education

Tony Woodlief over at "Sand in the Gears" has an excellent post that expounds upon the intellectual bankruptcy of our current educational system (make sure to visit all of the links in the article, including his original post). Perhaps someone will actually listen to what he has to say, but I don't think that will happen. Serious change would upset the status quo of the teaching establishment, and with their considerable political clout, they will stymie any threat to their fiefdom.

posted at 10:29 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Cuts Explained

This perceptive piece of writing is from the father of Jamese, a generally left-of-center blogger from Canada. Although it is intended to describe the Canadian tax system, it is a good representation of what we currently have here in the US. It makes a tremendous amount of sense.

While I am not a fan of Jamese's professed political beliefs, I do like her blog. It will probably show up on my links list eventually, although I am a bit afraid that she'll come over and beat the crap out of me for linking to her site, because she finds my views odious. (I understand that the doctors were able to straighten out VodkaPundit's nose, and you won't even be able to tell it was broken.)

posted at 07:51 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

What Pattern Are You?

What Pattern Are You?

I promise I won't make a habit of this. Really, I can stop at any time...

posted at 07:26 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

A Raspberry to William

Yesterday, I saw this William Raspberry op-ed column in the local daily. It turns out it was actually written on Monday, but nobody else seems to have picked it apart yet, so I'll take a whack at it.

Does it make sense to see the crisis in the Middle East as primarily the work of Palestinian terrorists driven by anti-Israeli hatred?

Only if you look at the facts. If you wish to empathize with the suffering of those who have reaped what they have sown, then you might view it differently.

I certainly do not intend to praise the Palestinian suicide bombers who were, for a while during Passover, blowing themselves up on a daily basis. But to think of them as violence-prone cowards — even to call them terrorists — is to miss the most salient fact of their behavior: utter desperation.

This is utter drivel. There is absolutely no justification for the bombings. This line of reasoning is also used to excuse inner-city violence, riots (see the Rodney King fiasco), and a host of other anti-social behaviors.

I don't dispute that the suicide bombings constitute terrorism (even while the United Nations struggles to define the term). A good-enough working definition is violence, particularly against civilians and innocents, in furtherance of political ends.

The only reason the UN has any trouble defining terrorism is because the Arab nations are adamantly opposed to agreeing to any definition that includes attacks upon Israeli citizens. Since the terrorists are using a variety of methods to attack Israel, there are very few definitions of terrorism that meet these criteria.

But isn't it reasonable to examine those political ends? Isn't it reasonable also to ask what moral distinctions there are between what the suicide bombers (and those who dispatch them) are doing and what the Israeli forces have been doing?

Desperation does not result in attacks upon civilian populations. Attack a military installation—that's one thing. Blow up a pizza parlor—that's quite another. Ths Jews do NOT target innocents. The Arabs do. It does not get any simpler than that.

President Bush has described the latter as justified in retaliating for the suicide bombings. Those who see the suicide bombers as heroes naturally view their actions as retaliation for the latest humiliation visited upon them by the Israelis. What seems obvious to me is that every act of violence, by both sides, is both aggression and retaliation — and that it does no good to try to separate one from the other. One might just as well hope to settle claims on the land variously called Israel and Palestine by hiring a title-search company to look it up.

"The latest humiliation" must mean when Israel has tightened security due to yet another attack. It probably won't do any good to mention the fact that they wouldn't be in this situation if they hadn't attacked the Israelis in 1948, defied the UN by blocking Israeli shipping through the Suez (and blockading Eilat) in 1956, expelling the UN observation mission, bombarding Galilee, and again blockading Eilat in 1967, or invading in 1973, not to mention the two intifadas.

Are they terrorists? Certainly. But is Israeli President Ariel Sharon any less a terrorist because he does his thing through a uniformed military, with tanks and machine guns? There's terror — and intransigence and duplicity — on both sides, and precious little value in trying to determine which side owns the preponderance of guilt.

Please specify the instances in which Sharon has targeted civilians. Terrorists who are actively planning attacks are not civilians, by the way. They are even more insidious than uniformed soldiers because they blend in with the local population, something that can never be said of the IDF.

Or the preponderance of virtue, for that matter. Much is made of the concessions the Israelis offered — and that the Palestinians (in the person of Yasser Arafat) rejected about 18 months ago. And hardly anything is made, in the United States, at least, of the Palestinians' earlier concessions — particularly of Israel's right to exist within secure borders and the abandonment of the Israel-is-Palestine contention in favor of a Palestinian state made up of only the West Bank and Gaza.

Conceding the right of Israel to exist isn't a concession, and it's hardly universal. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah all state that they aim for the destruction of Israel. Considering that polls indicate that Hamas has the most support of any faction in Palestine (even more than Arafat's Fatah party), and considering that Hamas aims to establish an Islamic state on all land that was once mandatory Palestine, (are you listening, Jordan? You're next, after they're done with Israel) one has to wonder if the Israel-is-Palestine contention really has been abandoned. As to the secure borders issue, Israel has never had secure borders, and never will, as long as the various terrorist factions continue to receive support from the Palestinians.

Why is it so much easier for us in America to see Sharon's actions as in Israel's legitimate interest than to see the suicide bombers' as serving theirs?

Because we have no trouble distinguishing terrorism and military response to terrorism. It's not that difficult, unless you are an editorial writer, a leftist anti-Israel agitator, or Cynthia McKinney.

posted at 12:04 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

".... and the abandonment of the Israel-is-Palestine contention in favor of a Palestinian state made up of only the West Bank and Gaza." - and since when that's to be considered as a concession to begin with? Palestinians never had any legitimate basis for such a demand (which is worth as much as the demand for Palestine-is-Israel. And I guess you are aware of the fact that there are Israelis who profoundly believe that should be the case, based on religious and historical grounds. That contention however, was never adopted by the state of Israel). And for what it's worth, lets remind ourselves that Palestinians never dared posing such a "contention" towards their fellow-Arabs, when they (Jordan&Egypt) ruled the Palestinians for about 20 years (1948-1967). Should the Palestinians decide that US-is-Palestine, would "waiving" such a position be considered as a concession?... I don't think so... The alleged "concession" weights, hence, just the same.

posted by Michal, Israel on April 14, 2002 04:02 PM

So, you thought you were tough enough to try to learn English?

This little treatise on the lovely language we share is only for the brave. It was passed on by a linguist, original author unknown. Peruse at your leisure, English lovers.

Reasons why the English language is so hard to learn:

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6.) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) After a number of injections my jaw got number.
19) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
20) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
21) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend. If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. - Why doesn't "Buick" rhyme with "quick"?

posted at 01:02 AM | permalink | Comments (4)

Why isn't "phonetic" spelled phonetically?

By the way, boxing rings were originally round...


posted by Myria on April 13, 2002 08:54 AM

Very cute post! I love language, and reading about it. One of my favorite books is The Mother Tongue: English & How It Got That Way, by Bill Bryson. It makes me laugh out loud. In other books, he sometimes is PC, anti-religion and assorted other annoying things, but on the whole worth your time.

posted by susanna on April 13, 2002 06:07 PM

There's a fish shop at 144th and Broadway in New York City that has two signs, one just above the other:
"Eat Fish, Live Longer" and "Live Lobsters". A little confusing, the first time you see them.

posted by Dr. Weevil on April 13, 2002 11:52 PM

For those who love wordplay and the intricacies of our language, look for books by Richard Lederer (he has several out there). His books are highly entertaining and informative.

If you are a budding pronunciation maven, look for books by Charles Harrington Elster (particularly "The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations", which is a compendium of two of his earlier books, revised and expanded). You may not agree with all of his pronunciation recommendations, but you have to appreciate his tenacity in researching words to find out how they ought to be pronounced, instead of how they are pronounced.

posted by scutum on April 14, 2002 08:38 PM

Friday, April 12, 2002

Democrats allege media bias

This is amazing.

I don't know whether I should be laughing out loud or bellowing in rage.

Perhaps when they are done with their sulk, Daschle and Gephardt can head on over to the Media Research Center and see the other side of the bias coin—how much support they are really getting from the media.

posted at 09:23 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 11, 2002

More links

I've added a few more links to the side.

The vast majority of the sites are "war blogs", but I have a little variety. Cut on the Bias and Media Minded are media watchdogs, The Last Page and Happy Fun Pundit are the comic relief, and Virginia Postrel and USS Clueless are so I can say "I am intellectual, dammit! (grin)

Most of these blogs are "the ones everybody links to", but there are a few that are off the beaten path. If you see some listed that you don't recognize, take a moment and check them out. They are all worthwhile.

posted at 11:24 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

An Israeli PoV

When I saw this link in a British paper's website, I was shocked into silence for a moment.

The author of the piece, David Horovitz (not to be confused with right-wing raconteur David Horowitz) is the editor of The Jerusalem Report, a widely circulated Jewish general-interest magazine.

He makes a measured, careful analysis of why the Israeli people are fed up with wishy-washy politicians, American waffling, and European and Arabic belligerence.

posted at 09:48 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

News flash!! Coup in Venezuela!


I am ambivalent about this. While Chavez was a corrupt, egomaniacal, marxist twit, I dislike military takeovers on general principles. Also, considering the considerable oil reserves controlled by Venezuela, this could be a bad omen.

Of course, the massive demonstrations against Chavez were a hint that he wasn't so popular with the people who elected him. There have been a series of escalating confrontations between Chavez and his opponents, and the protesters apparently gained the upper hand.

We'll have to see how this plays out.

posted at 07:55 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant

While reading this Bob Herbert piece on the Indian Point nuclear power facility, a couple of thoughts flashed through my head.

For one thing, it's had a disturbing safety history and one of its two reactors currently has the worst safety rating of all 103 reactors in the United States

I'd like a little more clarification on this. What were/are the problems? And "worst safety rating" is a very nebulous term; since we have had only one close call in the US with nuclear power (Three Mile Island), we have a very good record regarding safety. And, of course, no matter how good our record is, there has to be one that is "the worst". If a class with eight students has four students with a 98 average, three with a 96, and one with a 95, then the 95 is the worst average. It's still outstanding, but it is the worst.

Also, Herbert neglects to mention the purchase of the facilities by a private concern (Entergy Nuclear). Previously, the two plants had been operated by two different organizations. Consolidated Edison ran plant two and New York Power Authority ran plant three. Now both are run by the same company, yet Herbert doesn't mention whether the "disturbing safety history" was before or after the Entergy acquisition.

And new polling data compiled by the respected Marist Institute for Public Opinion show that more and more residents of the metropolitan area feel that the benefits to be derived from the continued operation of Indian Point are not worth the risks.
The polling was done for Riverkeeper, an environmental group that is campaigning to have the power plant shut down. Separate surveys were conducted of people living within 10 miles of the plant and residents within a 50-mile radius.

I would be really interested in the exact wording of the questions used in this poll, considering that the commissioners of the poll have an open bias against the plant. Were they neutral questions, such as "Do you feel that Indian Point should be shut down?" or was it more along the lines of "Do you think that the risk of a terrorist attack on Indian Point, which could irradiate 100 square miles, is just cause to shut down this potential killer?" I exaggerate to make a point, but bias in polls is well-known, and a group with an agenda is more likely to use the wording of a poll to bolster their allegations.

Large majorities of those who want the plant closed said they favored a shutdown even if that would mean a jump in energy costs, a loss of jobs at the plant and a significant loss of revenue to the Westchester County town of Cortlandt, where Indian Point is located.

Did anyone attach dollar figures to a potential price increase? Many people favor high-minded, "progressive" plans until they are made aware of just how much it will cost them. Considering that New York is already straining its power plants to meet demand, shutting down the two operational reactors at Indian Point (which generate over 1.9GW of electricity) is foolish.

20% of New York's power is derived from nuclear power. Can you imagine the impact of cutting off one fifth of the total power supply for a state as populous and energy-dependent as New York? It's mind-boggling.

And of course, there is no comment from town officials in Cortlandt, the town that has the biggest stake in the whole issue. For that matter, the only quotes were from a writer for the Natural Resources Defense Council and the executive director for Riverkeeper. A little balance might have been nice. At least it wasn't billed as a straight news article.

Alex Matthiessen, Riverkeeper's executive director, said at the press conference, "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission would never allow this plant to be built today. They wouldn't build it in such a dense area."

This is speculation. The last nuclear power plant to begin operations in the US was Watts Bar, which began operating in 1996. Construction of that facility began in 1973, btw. Of operating plants, the last to begin construction was Wolf Creek (Kansas), which began construction in 1977. Since nobody has tried to build a plant since then, Mr. Mattheson has no idea whether or not the plant would be approved.

posted at 07:32 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 9, 2002

WarBlogger Watch

The bozo at WarBlogger Watch (I'm not going to link him) claims that he will not attach a name to his blog "...for the simple reason that I don't want the police at my door for criticizing the war machine."

Sure. If this were the police state he is attempting to depict, then he's already screwed, because I seriously doubt that Blogspot (which has IP tracking of some sort, I'm sure) would defy a court order to provide that data to any governmental group that desired it. Unless he is doing a lot of IP spoofing, he's not invisible. Of course, his anonymity is secure, because we don't live in a police state. He doesn't want his real name attached to the project because he is afraid of the ridicule that would be heaped upon him for his senseless ranting, his poor command of English, and his mindless vendetta against Glenn Reynolds. The one thing that he gets right is that the "war blog" community sticks together, and he would be mercilessly pilloried if his real identity were to be revealed.

posted at 10:21 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

If one were out in the company of friends -- not close personal friends, but those with whom one had a drink with after work -- and someone walked up to one of them, spat in his face, and proceeded to insult him with vile accusations, who would not defend him?

Only "Eric Blair", apparently, who is too afraid that he might bark his knuckles on the assailant's teeth.

posted by John "Akatsukami" Braue on April 12, 2002 01:37 PM

Scheer Watch

Robert Scheer is an incandescent beacon of blithering lunacy. His most recent effort is one of the most obnoxious, one-sided hit pieces I've seen yet since the Israelis began their sweep.

Not that anyone asked me, but those are not my tanks careening around the West Bank bringing fear and havoc in their wake. Yet they are marked as Jewish tanks and consequently they and I bear some familial resemblance on my mother's side. I am thus obligated to consider what cruelty is being done in the name of defending my people

Oh, please. This can be translated, loosely, as "I am looking for a pretext to validate my views".

While Jews are hardly monolithic, even in their views of Israel, their large presence in the media contrasts sharply with a near total exclusion of Palestinian Americans.

Wait a minute. "Exclusion" implies a deliberate attempt to limit their participation, which is not something I have *ever* heard before. Lack of participation does not imply sinister exclusionary measures are at work. There are plenty of Palestinians in this country; the fact that the vast majority have chosen a field other than journalism is not proof of a conspiracy.

Scheer is a master of linking false causation to results with which he does not agree; Spinsanity has documented his style on many occasions.

While the family tales of Jewish oppression during the pogroms of czars, the Holocaust and Soviet anti-Semitism have been merged into the dominant American culture, horrific tales of Arab suffering are systematically ignored. But, as when blacks and Latinos were absent from newsrooms and nightly death in the ghetto was not thought to be news, it is difficult to escape the notion that many in the media, Jews and non-Jews alike, lean to the view that Arab life is cheap.

The difference is that the Jews who died in the Holocaust and in Czarist pogroms were not busy encouraging their brothers, sons (and daughters) and neighbors to strap explosives on themselves, walk into a large crowd, and detonate, taking out as many people as they could. No life is cheap, except that which is thrown away willingly, even eagerly. The lives of the murderous bombers have *no* value, because they have jumped at the opportunity to end their lives. This is not a view fed by the news; it is a realistic look at what is going on in Israel right now.

Despite all the attention accorded affirmative action by news organizations on the grounds that diversity is necessary to better news reporting, the exclusion of Arabs has been ignored. It is not appropriate, particularly given the past decades in which Arab-Israeli strife has never left the news and has frequently been a front-page headline—a story covered far differently by the European media, where Arab voices are much more integrated.

See my above. There is no link between the two. The pro-Arabic slant to the news in Europe might be influenced by a) the large number of Arabs who are willing to go on a rampage (France, Belgium, Germany come to mind immediately) and b) a none-too-subtle hatred of Jews.

Europe has a breathtakingly hypocritical stance when it comes to all things Palestinian. They excoriate us for imposing the death penalty, yet ignore the five Palestinians who were sentenced to death last week for alleged collaboration with the Israelis. They scream about "Land for Peace" when they suppress uprisings in Spain and France (the Basques). They attack us for our financial support of Israel, while they funnel money to the Palestinians, and nod approvingly at the funds and weapons the Arab states provide to Arafat's minions. They were the flashpoint for the two most widespread wars in human history, yet they call us (and the Israelis) bloodthirsty and barbaric. They have no credibility whatsoever on this issue.

Sharon himself is a man of barbaric impulse, demonstrated all too clearly in his terrorizing of civilians two decades ago in Lebanon and now on the West Bank. He has been a consistent provocateur, undermining peace efforts no matter their content, and now he is using his tanks to poison the ground for future generations.

No mention of the attacks on Northern Israel from Lebanon, and no mention of the suicide bombers from the West Bank.

Further, although Scheer doesn't directly refer to it in this piece, the "terrorism" he is apparently alluding to in regards to Sharon and Lebanon is the widely discredited assertion that he was responsible for a slaughter in Lebanon. It was Maronite Christians (working loosely with Sharon, but not under his direct control or formally allied) who were responsible for that atrocity. Sharon had no hand in that massacre, yet hard-line Palestinian apologists still try to smear him with that attack.

How does Scheer explain the fact that Sharon was not in the government at the time the Barak administration caved in to almost every Palestinian demand, but Arafat refused to budge? Sharon cannot be blamed for Arafat's intransigence, the very same attitude that brought Sharon to power. If Arafat had been a little less greedy, Sharon would not be running Israel, the Palestinian state would be a reality, and there would be no tanks in Ramallah or Bethlehem. However, Israeli public displeasure with increasing Palestinian violence led to the election of Sharon, who vowed to take a much harder line with the Palestinian Authority. Arafat knew what his actions would precipitate; he counted on sympathetic press to advance his cause. His gamble didn't pay off, as only the European press bought into his lies. The American press has been far less dazzled by his relentless spinning.

Yes, Yasser Arafat also has poisoned the ground under his feet and shares responsibility with Sharon for the breakdown of the peace process. But until recently, Arafat has been unrelentingly reviled by the news media while Sharon, no less monstrous in his behavior, hardly has been criticized.

Sharon has not been criticized? Jesus, what planet are you on? Other than the Wall Street Journal (and maybe the Washington Times), name a single major US daily that has not excoriated the Israelis. There are none, and the European press has been far worse. Arafat has been reviled because of his shameless demagoguery. He says one thing in English for our ears, and then tells his supporters the opposite (in Arabic). Unfortunately for Arafat, there are those who speak both languages who have exposed this dissembling.

Both are killers of the innocent. Both are to be roundly condemned by all, and the failure of prominent moderate Arabs to do their part to restrain Arafat is all too obvious. No less a moral offense is the acquiescence of too many Jews, in Israel and abroad, to the comparable crimes of Sharon.

Buried in amongst the condemnation and deceit is a truthful statement—The Arabic states have done NOTHING to rein in Arafat, and Hussein's $25,000 reward to the families of the murderer/bombers is inexcusable. However, equating Arafat's support of the intifada to Sharon's attempts to restore safety to his country's citizens is reprehensible. Coming from Scheer, it is not unexpected, but it is repulsive all the same.

posted at 12:17 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 8, 2002

Writing skills: a lost art?

[Warning: Grammar Nazi at work]

Lately, I am becoming less and less tolerant of those who are utterly incapable of spelling and correctly using the English language. I am not referring to those who use English as a second language; I am talking about those who butcher their native (and in most cases, ONLY) language. Typos are one thing, but willful misuse of the language disturbs me.

Without naming names, here are a few examples I've seen recently:

...should of invaded... (Make that should have, or should've).

...two interlinked problems with discreet solutions (try discrete, unless you are talking about being subtle).

Lot's of people... (no apostrophe).

The often misused "it's" (too many examples to mention). Remember, the apostrophe replaces the "i" in "is". It's not a possessive, but a contraction.

Abuse of the word "media". The word is plural, as in "the media are liberal". One of the biggest names in new media (no names, please) forgets this, and uses "media" as a singular noun.

"Verbing"—taking nouns and turning them into verbs. The most recent example of this is "Enron" and its verb form—Enronized. "Lewinsky" is also an example, as is "Borking". The last at least has the virtue of succinctly describing a coordinated smear campaign. (I cannot take credit for the construct "Verbing"; I got the idea from Bill Watterson, of "Calvin and Hobbes" fame.)

Sorry if I have offended any of my readers, but I needed to vent on this topic.

posted at 10:39 AM | permalink | Comments (2)

Say on, Brother Scutum. I'm with you on all points you mentioned, and then some. I do try to write "clean" grammatically, even though sometimes my facts are askew (as you so kindly informed me, recently). Question - is it "new media" or "news media" that the forgetful big-name is in?

posted by susanna on April 8, 2002 07:37 PM

He is of the "new media" persuasion, but the first time I noticed his error was in an interview in a processed dead tree publication. (One that hardly qualified as "news media", FWIW).

posted by scutum on April 8, 2002 09:21 PM

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