Why You Shouldn’t Vote

1 Nov

1. Your vote probably won’t make a difference. A reasonable metric about whether vote makes a difference would be if your ballot was the ballot that decided the election. If your vote doesn’t decide the election, then you could have not-voted and the outcome would have been the same. Though highly-unlikely, suppose your vote does decide who wins. Most states have laws which demand a recount if the difference in the number of votes won is too small (this was part of the problem in the Franken-Coleman recount in Minnesota) – so even if your vote “decided” the election, the margin of one vote is not big enough to declare one candidate the winner.

2. You lose the right to complain about politicians and their actions. I think George Carlin says it quite well (language NSFW):

3. There are many more fun or productive things you could do instead. For example: cooking, reading, discussing what it means to be a citizen, exercising, competitive gardening, singing, base-jumping, sleeping, whale hunting, homework, drinking, testing series to see if they converge or diverge, writing, and so much more.

“Changing” Definitions

29 Oct

Suppose we have a finite set A in R. There exists a point x in R such that x is not in A. Suppose we take the union of x and A. Call it B. Then A is still in R and all of the points in A are in B. That is, those points in A were completely unaffected by adding another point to the collection. B is in R. Math didn’t break.

So can anyone tell me why NOM still exists and why they believe that the “new” definition of marriage will harm everyone else? Merriam-Webster already made the drastic change. Get over it.

Basic Game Theory

27 Oct

There are people who look like Muslims wearing Muslim clothing.
They are therefore affiliating themselves more strongly with Islam than America.
Therefore, I fear them if I see them get on a plane.

It seems that Mr. Williams has a difficult time putting himself in the perspective of another person. If I were a Muslim terrorist, I would want to consider a few things:

1. The number of eyes watching any particular plane is greater now than in the pre-9/11 period.
2. The number of people that fear or hate Muslims (or people who look like them) is greater.
3. People profile; and with a higher frequency after terrorist attacks.

If I were a terrorist that was hell-bent on destroying America and freedom by taking a plane hostage, why would I want to draw unnecessary suspicion upon myself until I’m ready to declare my allegiance to the one true god, Allah, blessed be his name? If anything, Mr. Williams should want to be on a plane full of people who are dressed “like Muslims.”

Also, as a side note, observe that by Mr. Williams’ thinking, outward affiliations 1) suggest you put that affiliation before America and 2) that this is a bad thing. I don’t think I need to go through a list of things that would show why this thinking is nonsensical.

Cool Videos.

13 Oct

Awesome French Animation

Philology Phriday–Strand

8 Oct

This is a passage I found from the seminal “Buying Work Gloves” manual, mandatory though engrossing reading from the shell of my summer employment at my parents’ glove selling business. While thinking of the word for this week, strand, the image of this passage flashed its brilliance on the insides of my closed eyelids. I often think of strands in the context of yarn or thread. I sew strands of thread into these awesome gloves.

Through the process of double indirect association, a dubious though interesting way to make passages mean something very different from their intent, the three paragraphs above made me think of the story-telling metaphor, and folklore lingo, “spinning a yarn”. If that becomes a metaphor underpinning the whole of the passage, it is interesting to see what is being unsaid, or maybe under-read is a better term, about the process of story-telling. The group of yarns, yarns=stories, become something of archetypes, all running parallel to each other, forming spaces to be filled in by obtrusive and axial counter-yarns. Even odder is the term “warp,” because it connotes a strangeness about the whole thing, an oddity, or maybe a bending in some sense, like the yarns (or stories) themselves are meant to be bent. More of the analogy can be teased out, but I will let you do that. Suffice it to say,  the thread-idea of strand I had led me to associate the word with the craft of fiction.

But the word has four noun entries alone in the Oxford English Dictionary. The first use of the word, stemming from Old Norman strond, actually meant an area of land bordering a body of water. Milton’s “Lycidas” immediately popped in my mind, specifically the money quote: “Now Lycidas, the Shepherds weep no more;/ Hence for Thou art the Genius of the Shore” (ll. 182-183).

This association really hurts the strength of the thought I was trying to weave before. It seems that the early idea of strand lent itself to a more poetic metaphor. How many poems do you know that take as their object something on the shore? Howabout Arnold’s Dover Beach?

Even more interesting is that the word seems to change in meaning to mean also a stream. My sleep-deprived, associative mind wants to jump immediately to a stream of consciousness.

But then Spencer’s Faerie Queen uses the word to describe the sea, or at least a sheet of water.This conflated use of both land bordering body of water and the water itself persisted for quite a while, being in popular use from the 12th to the 15th centuries in England.

Is this strand thing getting as confusing for you as it is for me?

The use that I started with, that of a thread, found its way into English-speaking mouths by the turn of the 16th century. How can we explain the unrelatedness of these two meanings? An uncited scholar in the OED proposes that this meaning of the word came from an adoption of the word strain in Old French.

It seems then that my confusion is completely warranted. The word has multiple tributaries that lead us (or at least me) to a dual-association. I can connect it to both poetry and fiction. In the last beats of my brain before it just shuts off for a nap, I wonder if maybe strand is the strand that binds poetry to fiction.

Also, I’m paying the people who don’t use my services…

4 Oct

It is often the broadest and most generalized claims that are the most difficult to approach and analyze. Recently, Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” decided to voice his opinions about the rich people who are whining over the threat of a 3.6 percentage point tax increase on their incomes. “Greedy assholes,” he calls them; in his mind, anyone making over $250,000 per year and complains about a tax increase should “be publicly vilified by the Obama administration.”

Maher goes on to allege that the American people bailed the wealthy out, that it is those with incomes over $250,000 who are responsible for outsourcing “all the jobs, destroyed the unions, and replaced workers with desperate immigrants and teenagers in China.” There’s a trillion dollar deficit, states Maher, so the rich should have to fill the gap! The wealthy don’t create jobs asserts Maher, “They’re much more likely to save money through mergers and outsourcing and cheap immigrant labor, and pass the unemployment along to you.” (We can ignore the fact that employment is the result of an economic transaction to trade wages for labor. Employment, or the lack of it, cannot be moved, passed on, or swapped out).

Before progressing further into the heart of Maher’s claim, this economic fallacy that the wealthy don’t create jobs must be dealt with – although I really shouldn’t have to explain this (Ch. 23). Take the greediest, most caricatured capitalist billionaire you can imagine. Suppose he saves money (even Maher agrees that this occurs) – the way in which he does it isn’t relevant. What does he do his money? Stuff it into his matteress and pillowcases? If he is a greedy money-grubbing capitalist, then he’ll either invest it or put it into a savings account where it can accrue interest. But the bank isn’t going to just sit on it either. They are going to loan it out to people. Not only that, they’ll try to get the money to people that will pay back the money with interest. The people who take out the loans invest in things – factories, businesses, homes, themselves, etc. But this money must go somewhere. People are needed to work in the factories and businesses; homes need to be built and renovated; those seeking an education need educators. Jobs are created and resources are productively employed. And the capitalist and the banks profit from this. That is, they profit from the jobs they helped to create. Not only do the wealthy create jobs, they have an incentive to make sure that people have jobs and are producing goods and services that people want.

In Maher’s mind, it doesn’t matter whether you are helping others – only that you are making much more money than others. It doesn’t matter if your income is legitimately earned – if you have more than others, then you owe it to them. The flaw in Maher’s argument is that he seems to believe that not-taking is the same as giving. More and more frequently, we are hear politicians and economic prostitutes claim that if the government refrains from taking more money from the people, it’s equivalent to paying them. Perhaps just as disturbing as the misguided notion that not-taxing=gift-giving is that these claimants mention the size of the deficit and are advocates for more government spending. They say “If you reduce taxes, how are you going to pay for that deficit you keep crying about?” Do they forget that reducing taxes isn’t the only way to make the deficit harder to pay back? Increasing spending works just as well. 

The idea that it’s greedy to keep what you’ve earned from an organization that will arrest you if you fail to obey it is as of yet unjustified. I don’t even know that Bill Maher believes that it’s greedy to keep what you’ve justly earned. If Maher really believed what he said, shouldn’t we expect him to give up all of his income to the government? We can just increase the tax rate by 3 percentage points every year until 100 percent of his income goes to our brilliant representatives. A 50 percent increase in the income tax rate is as arbitrary as 3 percent. For Maher to argue that he shouldn’t have to give up all of his income is for him to argue on the price and not the principle.

Philology Phriday–Right

1 Oct

It is time that this author show the world, that is the few if any people still reading these here word-thoughts, about the pervasively ensconcing quality of everyday language. You have heard of phallocentrism, maybe even phallologocentrism. You’ve been asked in all your lit classes what the place of the female character in the narrative, how she functions, may hint at the possibility that a male writer for some strange reason would actually want to subjugate the general female populace at large. You probably thought, “Hmmm. Aight.” You thought it was a cool trick of language, nothing more. Nothing less. But then it became a trend. And trends are more than just tricks.

But I have to clue you into something even more pervasive, something even more sickeningly subtle though powerful. The first time I saw it, I may have vomited a little bit. My heart, and this is sure, clenched. What was it that I saw? The OED’s entry for “right (n)”. That’s right. Do you want to see what I saw? I warn you, the following block quotation is intellectually graphic and deconstructively/ more generally just like postmodernistly really troubling to those of us who like to think that we believe in the equality of all people:

In Middle English the semantic development was probably influenced by similar developments shown by Anglo-Norman and Old French dreit, Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French droit DROIT n.1, as were a number of phrasal constructions.

Even the message conveying the perpetuated subjugation going on from what seems to be the early Anglo-Norman era of linguistic dominance in the then-unformed Western World, the message is a bit underhanded.

DROIT, from what I know literally means the right side. But it’s use, parallel and equally as cunning as the English RIGHT, under the postmodern, cosmopolitan we like all have rights microscope becomes this singular, pinprick prescription to cast aside all that is on the left. RIGHT’s first uses in Old English imply a sense that the right is what is “proper, correct, [and] consonant with justice” (OED). And the uses cascade from that droplet, forming a Niagra Falls that overpowers even the most stringent.

Defining the right as the just, by difference, makes the left the not-just. And this is where I get angry. No, not because I’m left handed. I’m not sick like that. I mean. I care about the left. About all directions. Back is no better that forward, left and right no better than each other. It is unjust to connect the just with the right, and I, as a Gaucher, cannot stand for it. It is time, my left-handed compatriots, that we grab each other’s dominant hands and form a circle, large and grand, to show the world, the West, with its wily word use, just how we feel about this now-termed adroitocentrism. We must, if only because we can.