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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.

Cool Videos.

13 Oct

Awesome French Animation

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.

Sad State of Global Society

28 Sep

I think we can do better. Though I am not a huge fan of international intervention (In the case of America’s long history of military objects) I do think that international community should push more fervently for a stronger disaster relief policy. Look at the state of Haiti, long the basket-case of the Western Hemisphere, is still struggling to come to gripes with the extremely high levels of loss. This struggle has now taken nine months. Though rebuilding shall eventually come, housing people in refugee like camps will only lead to a weaken state, increase poverty, disease and with the lack of education, there shall be no easy way of out the endemic problems facing the Western half of Hispaniola.

Then came the rising waters of the Indus River. Flooding, not the kind sandbags can stop, but the one that devours whole regions of America’s ally Pakistan. A young democracy with rising demographic and military force, key to America’s Overseas Contingency Operation (Obama’s more PC term for the War on Terror) the country is now paralyzed by this natural disaster. Millions have had their homes and fields damaged nearly beyond repair and for those who lost their houses.

I heard Muslims ask: But why during Ramadan? Is this a message from god? A coincidence? Or merely the way of the still developing world.

Honestly, this flood is just the result of weak infrastructure and a low capacity government, in an over populated area for the amount of public resources. One example has been the failure to supply the more than 1.5 million now displaced with more than 60,000 tents, such a fail. Though terrible, the number of dead will only be in the thousands, while in Haiti there were over 230,000 dead.

So while each of this are horrendous disasters, one, Pakistan is more of a regional issue versus the earthquake, which has literally set the entire country of Haiti back. This is in part due to demographics and geography. So for Haiti to lose that many people its 2.5% of their 9 million, and this excludes a remaining 1 million people homeless. On the other hand, Pakistan there are about 21 million affected people and that represents about 16%. While these are still comparably bad, I have read that  close to 30% of all Haiti’s civil servants perished during the earthquake.

In the end, I think the international community needs to understand the great damage both of these events have caused and should try to help bring stable adjustments. In Haiti especially, emphasis on supplying people with jobs so the economy can get going. It would be good to artificially stimulate some activity over than refugee camps. In the long run, Haiti will not have much hope without some kind of catalyst, there must be more urgency to fix the worst state in the Western Hemisphere. Or maybe all this intervention has failed?  The US has intervened on and off in Haiti throughout the entire last century and if it controlled its economy through direct oversight and even indirect guidance with the World Bank. Let the UN deal with it, but UN hurry up and clean up that place, sometimes jobs need to get done, why not pay all the people in the tent cities to start cleaning it up. So you pay people to take back this rubble filled city?

Hopefully in the coming months, there were be more local relief provided throughout Pakistan. Still, the problems were not be necessarily as long-term, many fewer people have died, the entire economy did not collapse. The agricultural and infrastructural loses are estimated by their own government at about $43 billion. While massive, the national as a whole might find some stability in growth in other provinces.

Overall, I hope future disasters are dealt with more swiftly, so the loses did not need to needlessly rise.  The rich OCED countries could sacrifice some of their wealth to guarantee global disasters are dealt with swiftly, so we do not need this international missteps, when there is so much excessive wealth in home of the Brave.

Philology Phriday–?

24 Sep

You’re probably wondering why the subject of a weekly post about the sordid and only sometimes interesting history of words is a punctuation mark. Valid question. And for that valid question, I’ll give a rather not-so-valid answer, simply that we’re on the letter “q” in our adventures. +, the story of the question mark must be more interesting than the multiple uses of words like “question” or “query” (though, it may be of worth to note that the Anglo-Norman word questiun connoted torture in the early 14th century, or that the Latin root for the word “query” meant simply complaint even though now we use it to mean something like a question implying specific doubts).

Parenthetical discussions of query actually bring us to the point of this post–the question mark. The OED lists this mark under the multiple definitions of “query”. Here’s what they have to say about it:

2. A question mark (?), used in writing to indicate a degree of doubt about the accuracy or validity of a following (occas., a preceding) word or statement. Also used in speech to express a written question mark of this kind. Cf.

QY. int.

So in the cases highlighted by the OED, “query” is really just a term to categorize moments when speakers or writers express doubt (at least somewhat) explicitly. But this has yet to explain the evolution of the question mark itself. Where does this thing come from?

The history of the ?’s inception is one of the oldest unanswered questions of the like totality of humankind. Some think it started in the Middle Ages and was inspired by the way dogs and cats curve their tails when confused. Hilarious as this answer might be, it still isn’t very correct or historically accurate. One of the more accepted genealogies for the ? comes from the work of Lynne Truss who credits the question mark, more or less as we know it today, to Alcuin of York (you know, the poet, ecclesiastic, scholar, and teacher from Northumbria) whose punctus interrogativus resembled something like a lightning bolt descending from right to left. The early Middle Ages punctuation used a series of dots at different levels, and the lightning bolt signified an inflection or intonation. This means that reading was often more musical.

Over time, however, the Alcuinesque “stroke over dot” theory saw a new competitor for explaining power, this time in the abbreviations of Middle Ages scribes that signaled a question. This abbreviation of “qo” shortened the Latin term “quaestio” (meaning question). Over time, the q formed into the hook while the o morphed into a simple dot, leaving us with the ? that we know today.

I must say that all of these histories are supposed. None have been actually proven. This leaves us with the question that we started, or at least I started, with: Where does the ? come from?