June 1, 2004

Proud to be a Canadian

My family's traditional party, the New Democratic Party, is running a hijab-wearing woman in the upcoming Federal election. She is young - younger than me - and working on a Master's in Women's Studies at UBC. Alas, she is running in Delta-Richmond East, a resolutely Tory riding, which means she is a sacrificial candidate.

Update: From the comments I learn that Monia Mazigh, Maher Arar's wife, is running in Ottawa South. For those of you who've forgotten, Maher Arar is the Syrian-born Canadian that the US deported to Syria while he was transitting the US on his way home from a trip to see his family in Tunisia, even though he had not broken any laws in the US or elsewhere. In short, this is probably the most anti-Bush candidate in Canada.

I like the thought that a vote for the NDP is a vote against Bush. It lets us Canadians participate in our own small way in the coming American elections.

Ottawa South is John Manley's district, but he's retiring. The district looks pretty Liberal. But, it seems the district is a lot more Middle Eastern than it was at the last election, and people are pretty pissed at the Liberals. It's just at the outer limit of possible that she could win although I'd say the odds are against it.

Man, I wish I got CBC. I am so out of touch with Canada.


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June 3, 2004

Did okay in Chinese

I finished with a 77 - I guess basically a solid B. Russian grades are delayed. I'll know by tomorrow. I've had to drop Dutch. I just haven't the time for it this summer. And, I've seen the new Harry Potter. No review. It was okay, but it plays like a middle movie. Cuaron did okay though. The camera effects were a cute touch. If you're into Potter, you're going to go see it anyway. If you hate Potter, there's nothing here to change your mind.


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June 7, 2004

Did okay in Russian too

Got a 69. Call it a C+. It's really irritating to see only 8 points of difference between Russian and Chinese despite an enormous difference in work.

Anyway, I have a busy week ahead. There will be very little from me for the immediate future.


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June 8, 2004

Traitors in Academia

Since I see that accusations of betrayal and treasonous disloyalty are back in fashion, I thought I ought to point to the latest on Abu Aardvark:

In my previous post, I attacked Daniel Pipes a bit, and suggested that his article being published in the Middle East Quarterly did not augur well for the future reputation of that journal. But then this bit of deliciousness dropped into my lap. Martin Kramer tells us that his replacement as the editor of the Middle East Quarterly has been named. And it is none other than Michael Rubin. Yes, that Michael Rubin - the person most frequently cited as most likely to be the guy who leaked classified information to Ahmed Chalabi, and hence to the Iranians.

I am shocked - shocked! - to find that Middle Eastern studies in America has been so inflitrated by probable traitors and enemy spies. Why should our hard earned tax dollars support this sort of filth? I propose that government monitor federally supported area studies programmes and withdraw funding for those hiring neoconservatives. Why, I think I'll write my Congressman!

Oh yeah, I don't pay American taxes and can't vote in American elections. Oh well.


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June 10, 2004

Incompatibility issues

Had some issues with the new anti-spam measures at AFOE. The problem is gone now, it's possible to make comments again. A tip of the hat to Aidan for catching it. I though I was just getting less traffic with school out.


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Libertarianism is the Socialism of Lawyers

I lifted this line from Kieran Healy. It's a good line, and I'm going to have to use it. Alas, the attached discussion on CT is fair to middling worthless, although perversely enough Sebastian Holsclaw's mother makes a good point about the persistence of religion in the absence of belief.

It is remarkably hard to find a real libertarian who hasn't made a career in some aspect of the legal trade. If there were no government, I do wonder what most of them would end up doing for a living. There is a word in English for something that works to destroy the source of its own survival. We call them parasites, and it's one of the reasons why I tend to prefer small "c" conservatives over anarcho-capitalist libertarians with any form of capitalisation.


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Proof positive that being black is no barrier to being a nitwit

Via Silentio, the Republican candidate for Congress in the North Carolina 5th congressional district has come to my attention. Vernon Robinson is, rather unusually for a Republican in general and a southern Republican Congressional candidate in particular, black. Setting aside the deeply troubling notion of a black southerner who is "honored [...] to be compared to Jesse Helms", setting aside his actual stances on issues - Neanderthal would be my choice of adjective - the real proof of nitwithood in my book is in this extract from his anti-immigration ad:

"The aliens are here, but they didn't come in a spaceship," an announcer says over the theme to "The Twilight Zone." "They've filled our criminal courtrooms and clogged our schools ... They sponge off the American taxpayer ... they've even taken over the DMV. These aliens commit heinous crimes ... You walk into a McDonald's restaurant to order a Big Mac, and find to your horror that the employees don't speak English."

Oh the horror! Fast food staff who can't speak English! Why right now, there are Americans going through drive-thrus, receiving medium sized orders when they asked for super-size! My God, the Republic must be saved!

One of my in-laws likes to complain that she can't understand black people when they speak. Now, when she says that, she doesn't mean that she doesn't always understand what people are saying when she goes to some inner city neighbourhood. I don't always understand conversations in the more remote American dialects, and I remember being in Detroit once as a teenager and having a very hard time understanding the colloquial language of the inner city. That would be a totally understandable admission. No, what she means is that she can't understand Will Smith in old Fresh Prince reruns. I wonder what she would make of Mr Robinson's English?

(BTW - I saw a Fresh Prince rerun in German a few weeks ago. There is something incredibly amusing about seeing German come out of Will Smith's mouth. I'm not sure I can explain it.)

McDonald's business practices are designed to minimise ambiguity in customer/employee communications. Menus are numbered. At every counter there is a menu in photo form, so that you need merely point at what you want. Braille menus are avaiable on request. The choices are few and most Americans have them memorised by age 6. Furthermore, it's not like the vocabulary of ordering at McDonald's is terribly complicated. "A Big Mac and a Coke, please." "You want fries with that?" "*grunt*" "That'll be five fifty."

I have ordered at McDonalds in Asia where I could neither speak nor read the language and where the employees spoke no English whatsoever. Tourists come to America who speak no English at all, and yet manage to place and receive orders at McDonald's all the time.

McDonald's has been designed based on the assumption that all the employees, the customers and the managers are complete idiots. In order to be unable to place an order at McDonald's you have to be simultaneously blind, deaf, dumb and ignorant of Arabic numerals. And yet, Mr Robinson has difficulty getting a quarter pounder in North Carolina and then blames immigrants. What does that tell us about Mr Robinson?

Update: Corrected a truly heinous typo and added a sentence cuz I realised I started making a point in the fourth paragraph and then never made it.


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Reconstructing the original migration out of Africa

John McWhorter is restrainedly enthusiastic about a recently published paper linking an isolated language of Nepal to the languages of the Andaman islands. Now, as I have recently pointed out, I am not terribly specialised in historical linguistics. The last thing I read on the historical linguistics of Papuan languages was Wurm's book from the mid-70's. Even when I read it over a decade ago, the very idea that the Andaman languages had any particular connection to the languages of Papua was considered controvertial.

Thus, I am ill-equipped to judge the connecting hypothesis - that if this Nepalese language is related to Andamanese languages and Andamanese languages are related to Papuan languages and Papua has been settled for some 75,000 years, then this link is reconstructing an 80,000 year old linguistic connection. But, it seems to me that I'd need to be convinced of the intermediate steps before considering the basic claim.


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Mourning in America

Please, dear God, tell me that it isn't true that some network actually called their coverage of the Reagan funeral Mourning in America.


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June 18, 2004

Out to Lunch

I hate to have to step out while there's so much to blog. The Pentagon admitting that Donald Rumsfeld is a war criminal and the effect this is having on US opposition to the ICC; the death of Reagan, who really deserves to be remembered for making such a mess of things; the European elections, which bode ill both for the European project and its discontents; the up-and-coming American election, which is shaping up to be a stellar example of the failure of electoral politics.

But, we're reaching the tense part of IVF here at the Rancho Martens, and I have a research project deadline coming up. As little as this looks like anything, it is proof that I am getting somewhere with the project:

Anyway, this all means thin blogging in the summer, after thin blogging in the spring. I'm going to try to get more up at AFOE, especially a piece on the linguistic politics of air traffic control. After this project, I want to also get up a piece on how Ludwig von Mises was the first postmodernist. That should piss off all the right people. And, Grandpa needs to get to Africa soon, via Kansas and New York in the Jazz age.


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