Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Response To A Gentle Commentator (optional reading)

Posted by olvlzl.

History of the genitive - you mean it's from the strong masculine OE? Or am I missing yet another fun folk legend?

I hate, hate, hate it when the idea of 'more phonetic English spelling' comes up, because people pronounce English words differently. Whose phonetics get the nod? For a lazy example, do those who say 'pe-pul' speak truer, better English than those who say pe(o-kind-of-like-a-stop)-pl? Or Peepl? And so forth. That's why it hasn't been settled, imho. Too many not-quite-dialects, and since we have a common form, no use screwing with it to the logical benefit of only-some.

That's not even starting on how it could suck to have even one altered Am.Eng. spelling, a British English spelling, a spelling adapted for South Asian Englishes that only fits one really, and so forth... okay, I'll stop.

Of course, as one of those visual-memoried individuals, I never really know what words people want changed in the first place. But then, I probably pronounce at least 96% of the letters I see.

The Gauntlet Picked Up (Definitely to be read in the voice of Horace Rumpole.)

ear Painini, taking your concerns out of order. This website is an incomplete list of the many irregularities of Standard English Spelling. The site is impressive, though I know for a fact that there are more ways to spell some of the vowels, having come up with more spellings for long e one insomniac night. It also makes at least two untrue assertions. It hasn’t “been this way for a long time”. It’s been the way it is, in theory, for about two hundred years, with many if not most people using non-standard spellings the whole time. There is also no reason to just accept the absurdity, mastered by only a minority which has been allowed to tyrannize rest of us who use the English language. Even the standard system has variants and has had modifications over the years. “Cooky” is how my first grade speller taught the word. Write it that way now and watch the response. Then show them that spelling in the dictionary and have a bit of innocent fun.

You are concerned that some of today’s variant pronunciations of the English language would get left out of a reformed spelling. This is surprising since all of them are left out of the standard spelling systems now, both the British and the American. The pronunciations that control standard English spelling are those of people who have not uttered a single syllable for centuries, some have been silent for at least a millennium. To serve their long dead words the system is made impossible for the majority of people alive today.

You might notice that I support an attempt to make English spelling, “more nearly phonetic,” as no system of spelling in a natural language is exactly phonetic. I’d be satisfied with things like getting rid of unpronounced consonants, pitching such quaint antiquities as use of combinations such as -ough, -igh, ..., coming up with one standard spelling for roughly each of the long and short vowels and making the addition of grammatical suffixes regular. Putting any silent e as a sign of the long vowel either next to the pronounced vowel OR at the end of the syllable would be an immeasurable improvement. Just make a rule that once a silent e is put there, it stays there when the word goes on through inflection or compounding.

Choosing one, widely used pronunciation, coming up with a rational and phonetic spelling for it without the myriad of variant spellings we have now, would essentially solve the problem. For mercy’s sake, think of the children who have to waste their time and lose self-respect for the sake of of middle-aged, would be, etymologists’ vanity.

The alternative to spelling reform is to get used to the reestablishment of non-standard spelling. Those are the choices in spelling. As time wears on, it’s clear that standard spelling is being over run by the rabble. The choices in spending your time are either to get used to the reality that results when the last two centuries of class-based irrationality runs head long into a computer using population that isn’t going to be silent any longer, or to be continually upset that most people are not following the old religion.

As for your worries concerning my footnote about the use of the apostrophe in the English genitive case being based in “folk legend”, I refer you to page 291 of Albert C. Baugh’s “A History of the English Language,” 2nd edition:

... Until well into the eighteenth century people were troubled by the illogical consequences of this usage, Dr. Johnson (!) points out that one can hardly believe that the possessive ending is a contraction of his in such expression as a woman’s beauty or a virgin’s delicacy. He, himself seems to have been aware that its true source was the Old English genitive, but the error has left its trace in the apostrophe which we still retain as a graphic convenience to mark the possessive.

The error was thinking that the possessives ending in -s were a contraction of the word “his”. This an example of the foolishness of not simply writing a word as pronounced and attempting to weigh down what should be the helpful mechanics of spelling with an attempt at scholarship, showing off. In this case, as even Johnson managed to notice, the erudition was absolutely absurd, the product of rank ignorance. The results are an absurdity endowed with the force of conventional morality. Sinners who forget to place the erroneous apostrophe or who, in an overweening attempt to get it right, commit the sin of wasting one where the cannons of spelling do not place one, ... such heretics are to be cast out from respectable society.

I am grateful for your forcing me to reread my old textbook after so many decades. It’s full of interesting insights into some of the folly of grammarians, would be experts on rhetoric etc. I recommend it if it is read in the spirit of generosity and with an open mind. I forgot that Joseph Priestly delved in the language controversies of his day. Got to get to the library soon.

In perfect seriousness, the written form of the language is one of the most powerful tools for looking at ones thoughts and the thoughts of other people. Which of us haven’t come up with clearer ideas while we look over what we’ve written? To have most English speakers alienated from this tool, rightfully theirs, by the dictate of the aristocrats of orthography, is an offense against democracy. It helps explain how the English Speaking People have put up with so much crap from their ruling classes and how easily some of them are manipulated. You take a kid who doesn’t have the knack of spelling and tell him from the earliest grades that he’s stupid, how do you expect him to think about people who think and write for a living?

Fine Art Without The Pinky Finger Up

Posted by olvlz.
We went to see an exhibition once, a friend who is a painter and I. On the way home I asked him, what if it was possible to produce facsimiles of great works of art that were so exact that not a single expert could tell the difference between the originals and the reproductions by looking at their surfaces, would the reproductions be as great works of art as the originals?

My friend didn’t like the question. He wanted to hold out for the originals being the “real” work of art. In the discussion he couldn’t answer why there would be a difference if the experience of looking at the reproductions was identical to that of looking at the originals.

He asked me if someone came up with an electronic piano that sounded like a great piano if it would be just the same as a “real” piano. I had to say that if pianists and their audiences couldn’t tell the difference then there wouldn’t be a musical difference. If the electronic instrument had the same feel, play and sounds then, yes, it is as valid as a great, nine-foot, grand piano. I could go further and say that if there were recordings that exactly recorded a performance so that no one could tell the difference then listening to the recording, once, would be exactly the same as having attended the performance. Once, there’s the rub. Music and live theater are an experience of performances*. Painters and sculptors generally produce an object that is experienced but which is, one hopes, static in time. In order for music to exist it has to be performed.

All this is getting at the controversy over Alice Walton’s buying “The Gross Clinic” by Thomas Eakins and moving it to her new museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. As much as I despise the Walton family’s way of making money and as much as public institutions selling great art to private people bothers me, I don’t have much of a problem with this painting going to another city. Two, it seems. The National Gallery will apparently display it too as a part of an agreement. I do, however, have deep sympathy for those who think it should stay in Philadelphia.

I didn’t especially like the museum model they showed in the paper, no building should ever be built on the watershed of a river or lake. While wondering how protected the artwork is so close to water, it’s the ecological damage that really bothers me.

It would serve the interests of the art viewing public if processes of making exact copies, as theorized above, could be invented. Why not have a exact copies of all great art work available everywhere? Wouldn’t that be a more worthy expenditure of the energy going into fussing about where a picture resides? Maybe there should be a tax on all sales of art works over a ridiculous price to fund the research into finding ways to do it. How could art lovers complain about the experience of art becoming entirely democratic? While it would probably be too controversial, I’d put a ruinous tax on sales of the work of Thomas Kincade et al, now that would really bring in those research dollars.**

As for music. I upgraded my Finale music printing software. Those Garritin sound samples included in it are pretty impressive. My fellow pianists, we should be a little worried, maybe. But wind and string players don’t have as much reason to be afraid. Not yet, anyway.

* Electronic music often, but not always, is an exception.

** I know this seems like a courageous proposal. But you’re reading a person who honestly answered the question, “Has my Christmas Village gotten out of hand”, last week. And survived.

One Disastrous War Per Ideology

A policy we desperately need.
Posted by olvlzl.
Listening to the usual AEI crowd, and now that should always stand for Aristocratic, Establishment Idiots, pushing the Bush escalation of his failed war in Iraq before his speech, it seemed time to bring this up again. Until there are absolute, negative consequences for the guess pool dross, the talking heads, the university based hacks and their op-ed equivalents, there will be no reason for them to stop lying us into immoral and illegal disasters. Until their careers as flacks for imperial policies earn them and their media hosts universal contempt, they will get another chance in another war in another place. Ken Adleman on Diane Rehm the other day saying that success of the Bush escalation was unlikely but that it should be done anyway was among the more irresponsible things I’ve heard since Condi Rice making excuses for not trying to stop the Israeli-Lebanese war last summer.

If they got the contempt that their lies in the service of a corrupt oligarchy have earned them and if they lost their influence in public policy they would be left with only their war profiteering. That would be a damper on this most revolting neo-con job. As it is they get to profiteer while promoting wars to profit from.

There have to be even greater prices paid for the Iraq disaster than being asked a few moderately pointed questions before the stultus quo equilibrium of contemporary talk media is reestablished. The Republican Party has a horrible track record of criminality and incompetence going back to Nixon, it is a party whose interests do not lie with those of the American People or the world in general. They are a party of the privileged few and the psychotically superstitious. And there has to be a price for an ideology which has brought us Iraq and the rest of the Bush family crimes.

Conservatism is an ideology that has gotten its test of time and it has failed it miserably. Conservatism as defined after World War Two is a failure. Its failure is clear from the past six years when it had control of the United States government. It failed to secure the country, it failed to control government spending, it failed to bring prosperity to the American People, it not only failed to protect but eroded our civil liberties. Conservatism did succeeded in bringing about the worst foreign policy disaster in our history and it also produced a world which is immeasurably more dangerous and it’s getting worse. The Republican congress that ended last year was certainly one of the worst. Conservatism is known to have failed because with Nixon, Reagan and the two Bushes it has brought us a series of what are demonstrably the most corrupt presidencies in our history.

Yet our establishment and its media keep having the same conservative liars on to cover up their known failings with new lies. It looks more every day as if what we need most of all is a new media.

You can start by looking at their words. Anyone who is still saying “surge” is a Republican stooge. They’re the ones using the word “Democrat” as an adjective, as in “the Democrat Party”, “The Democrat Congressman” or “The Democrat Speaker of the House”, all three of which I heard on the radio and TV this week. Even the BBC, post Hutton Report version, uses it now. Robert Dole made that usage the equivalent of “nigger” for Democrats, they should be called on it every time until they’re shamed out of it. And it’s even more important for them to call an escalation what it is and not some Republican market tested lie.

Friday, January 12, 2007

For Friday Fluff Reading

I've been thinking a lot about the writer's voice, recently. When I guest blog on Eschaton, for example, I write in a different voice than here. Becoming aware of it (thanks, upyernoz) may help me to change that. But I realized that I have different images of who the writer is in different contexts.

Take my garden stories as an example. I have loads of them, all of them boring as hell, because I saw myself as the ancient wise gardener (wearing English boots and an old strawhat while examining the many gardens at the manor house) when I wrote them down. Here is one example which isn't quite as anally retentive as most of them but shows what the problem is:

Garden Tools

The most useful garden tool is a thumb and a forefinger with relatively long ragged nails. This tool can be used to cut flowers for the house, to crush all sorts of beetles and slugs and to check for life in presumably dead trees and shrubs by scraping their bark. It is also handy for picking mildewed leaves off lilacs and phloxes, for pinching off the growth tips of plants that otherwise would grow too tall and for scratching insect bites on the gardener. It is widely available and costs very little.

The second most useful tool is an expensive industrial-size wheelbarrow with wooden handles and an inflatable rubber tyre. Nothing substitutes for it, fully loaded and after rain, in enhancing the gardener's upper body development and sense of balance. It is also great for storing all those garden gadgets which gardeners somehow acquire but now fail to recognize. Don't let anybody talk you into buying a wimpy, light-weight wheelbarrow. This is a mark of a garden dilettante.

The third, and last, necessity for the gardener is a fancy English watering can with a set of interchangeable rosettes for the spout. (These will be lost in the first week of use.) The watering can should be green. Filling it with water from the garden hose teaches the gardener flood control. Trying to locate it in the green garden sharpens the gardener's eyesight and orienteering skills.

All other garden tools can be improvised from those in the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, or borrowed from gardening neighbors and demolition companies.

I really want to know if I could write like a wingnut or like a foul-mouthed liberal blogger, or if the voices I have are fairly limited in number.

Added later: I should have called this my memeME! post for Friday. Sheesh.

Waking Up On The Other Side Of The Bed

Peggy Noonan's reaction to the president's speech on the surge has this headline:

The Two Vacuums
Neither Iraqis nor Democrats seem ready to do what's required of them

It gets better, actually. She points out that Bush's performance was sub par, even for Bush, and she almost sorta admits that Iraq is a disaster. But she can't help turning back into looking for the real hostile enemy among the Democrats as usual.

What do they say about facing ones addictions? The first step is to admit that you have a problem? Peggy is not quite there yet if she thinks that Nancy Pelosi is the person she should blame for all these problems:

But there are two vacuums in the Iraq story. The first is the vacuum that would be filled in Iraq if America withdrew tomorrow. The second is the power vacuum that will be created in Washington if the administration is, indeed, collapsing. The Democrats of Capitol Hill will fill that one. And they seem--and seemed in their statements after the president's speech--wholly unprepared to fill it, wholly unserious in their thoughts and approach. They seem locked into habits that no longer pertain, and absorbed by the small picture of partisan advancement at the expense of the big picture, which is that the nation is in trouble and needs their help. They are sunk in the superficial.

When Nancy Pelosi showed up at the White House Wednesday to talk with the president it was obvious she'd spent a lot of time thinking about . . . what to wear. She wrapped herself in a rich red shawl. Dick Morris said it looked like a straitjacket. I thought she looked like a particularly colorful mummy. She complained that the president had not asked for her input as he put together his plan. He should have. But what would she have brought to the table if she'd been asked to it? It is still--still!--unclear.

Mmm. Except that Pelosi is not the Commander-in-Chief and all that other shit.

NTodd has a longer critique of Noonan's column.

Drug Wars

About the Medicare drug prices for the elderly (via NoCapital):

President Bush vowed Thursday to veto Democratic-drafted legislation requiring the government to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices under Medicare.

The House is to debate and vote Friday on the legislation, which is one of a handful of priority items for Democrats who gained control of Congress in last fall's elections.

"Government interference impedes competition, limits access to lifesaving drugs, reduces convenience for beneficiaries and ultimately increases costs to taxpayers, beneficiaries and all American citizens alike," the administration said in a written statement.

It said that competition already "is reducing prices to seniors, providing a wide range of choices and leading to a more productive environment for the development of new drugs."

Democrats shot back quickly.

"Evidently, the president is more concerned with protecting pharmaceutical company profits than American seniors," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (news, bio, voting record), D-Ill., a member of the House Democratic leadership.

It is very hard to take a step back from all this emotional stuff to actually look at the underlying ideas, but I'm going to do just that. Don't fall asleep quite yet.

The conservatives have a religious idea of "the markets" and of "competition". These gods can do no wrong and always work to help the consumers. Where did they get this religion?

It comes from a particular kind of marketplace, the one economists call a perfectly competitive market. Alfred Marshall, an old white dead guy in economics, compared the actions of such markets to the two blades of scissors, both cutting at the same time. So consumers and producers both affect prices in such a market. But at the same time consumers and producers are so many and so tiny, atomistic, indeed, that no one person or firm has any ultimate say in what the price might turn out to be.

The perfectly competitive market is fairly rare in reality, because it requires a market where people can come and go almost costlessly so that new firms can be set up in a moment without a great outlay (this is called free entry and exit) and because it requires a market where the product is so obviously constant in quality and so easy to check out that the only thing the sellers can compete in is the price which all can observe (homogeneous product requirement with perfect information thrown in). And this market must have many potential buyers and sellers.

Most markets in reality are not perfectly competitive. The further away we get from the basic requirements, the fewer economists there are who would swear that competition helps the consumers. At the other extreme of the perfectly competitive market is the case where we have one firm providing everything, a monopoly (or, theoretically, we could have one firm buying everything, a monopsony). Such a firm will not act like the blades of scissors in determining the price, and believe me, it is this firm which will determine the price. It will be set as high as the consumers can possibly endure, assuming no government regulation or potential entrant firms waiting in the wings.

Where does the pharmaceutical industry fall along this range of possible markets? Much closer to the monopoly end than the perfectly competitive end. For instance, the total number of pharmaceutical firms in the world markets for pharmaceuticals is a small one. In theory, these firms could get together and collude on the prices, the way the OPEC does in oil markets. Note also that you can't just set up a pharmaceutical firm without lots of money, so entry to the market is not free. The products are not homogeneous and consumers have great difficulty in judging their quality. Uncertainty abounds. It is fairly silly then to say that competition in this market would cause prices to automatically drop. The market might compete more in quality and in innovations, say.

Now add to such markets a large buyer, the Medicare program of the U.S. government. It's pretty obvious that this large buyer is not a small atomistic speck in a competitive market, powerless to affect prices. Instead, it would have great negotiating powers because of its large orders. It might expect quantity discounts if there are economies to scale in producing the drugs it orders. But the previous Congress ruled all this out. Medicare must act as if it has no market power at all.

This can't avoid helping the industry.

But does it help the consumers, the elderly, who rely on Medicare for their drugs? I am pretty sure that they pay more for their medications because of the ban on price negotiations. - Isn't it fascinating, by the way, that the pro-market forces in the Congress banned the very thing that would drive prices down in most markets? - What the effects of the ban are on all the other goodies mentioned in the above quote isn't quite as clear, but the list of goodies looks to me like something dug up from textbooks on government regulation of markets. Not all the points apply to this particular case at all.

Note that in reality the pharmaceutical firms trade globally to a large extent with governments of all types, and this makes the market analogy even less useful when looking at what the U.S. government should do. As an example, if all other governments bargain and negotiate over the prices they are willing to allow but the U.S. government does not, who do you think will get to pay the highest prices in the world?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fasten Your Seatbelts

And adjust your seats to an upright position, for we might be in for a wild ride. Check out this rumor (via Atrios) about a possible planned attack against Iran.

The rumor is just a rumor, but other signs suggest that the Bush administration might be considering a pre-emptive something-or-other against Iran. Isn't it interesting to live in an era where one prays that the tinfoil hat on the other country's crazed leader isn't as tight as the tinfoil hat of our crazed leader?

I hope that this rumor is an empty one, naturally. And if it isn't, I hope that writing about it, a lot, will make it into an empty rumor. But then I also hope for a nice prehensile tail.

In other news, the U.S. doesn't have enough military troops for even the current many and various wars.


Patriarcy Hurts Men, Too. A sentence I often saw used in various feminist net discussions. It is true, by the way. Patriarchy does hurt many men. It is a hierarchical system where a small group of men end up at the top of the ladder, using their legs to kick other men down, and some women get to climb up higher on the ladder than some men, though not as high as the men who are of the same sociological group.

Even the sex roles of patriarchy can hurt not only women but also men. The most obvious example has to do with what happens to physical child custody in the case of divorces: It tends to go the parent who had more to do with the children. In a patriarchal society this is usually the mother, not the father, because it is the mothers who are expected to stay at home with children and to perform most of the hands-on care of them. One of the consequences of this gendered division of labor is that fathers are less likely to get custody of their children, though they are also a lot less likely to ask for it.

Other rules of patriarchy can hurt men, too. For instance, a deeply patriarchal country will insist that its young men go to war, not its young women. But note that this insistence is not something women have created.

The reason for my musings on this (which really deserve a better series of posts later on) is this blog post on a blog called Violent Acres:

Nowhere in my past lurks a sleazy uncle with wandering hands who begged me to sit on his lap just a little bit longer. When I murmured, "This isn't right" while making out with my date, he stopped instantly; I've never left an apartment with tear stained cheeks while some douche screamed from his doorway, "Baby, you wanted it!" In the workplace, I've never felt particularly discriminated against and my pay was competitive with my male counterparts. There is no 'incident' lurking in my background where I realized, once and for all, that men were evil beings intent on dominating and controlling me.

I guess that's why I can't get on board with all this male bashing that's becoming quite popular nowadays.

Normally, I would never recommend this, but turn on your TV for a minute.

Everybody Loves Raymond
The Simpsons
Family Guy
Still Standing
The King of Queens
Home Improvement

What do all these televisions shows have in common? The Father figure in every one is a dolt, a hopeless baboon, a selfish jerk and a moron. If not for their fiscally responsible, shining examples of exemplary parenting, and brilliantly balanced wives, the family would certainty implode.

Oh, give me a fucking break.

To put things into some perspective, read the FAQ of this blog, where the writer tells us that breast enhancement and such is proof of women wanting to be objectified (and thus we know that women in burqas don't want to be objectified?). This is not a neutral commentator writing but an anti-feminist one.

Nevertheless, the point about these television shows might be a good one. Might be, because I don't watch any of them, and so I have more questions than answers. Here are my questions:

Are the writers of these shows men or women? Is the way these roles are written caused by feminism? Is it really true that the men are portrayed as dolts when it comes to fathering? And if so, why would this be the case?

Is it because of misandry, the hatred of men? Or because of the idea that if men are dolts in parenting they don't have to participate, and that this proves the traditional gendered division of labor is the right one? Or because the plum roles in comedy tend to be the silly ones?

Do the wives in these shows have outside jobs? Or are they expected to be full-time parents, in which case the idea of the father not participating might be intended to give a deeper message? Are these families which the shows portray egalitarian ones or patriarchal ones?

What do those who find such portrayals upsetting do? Do they protest and demand better fathering roles shown? And what do these better roles look like? Do they look like a Promise Keeper's family, with the father always knowing best? Or do they show shared parenting by mothers and fathers who are also individuals?

The blog post I linked to has an odd view of feminism. All feminists hate men. Sigh. Also, the writer's views on the group "women" are not exactly neutral or evidence-based:

Men might be a little insecure about their parenting techniques, but I'm willing to bet that's only because women are always watching them with critical eyes quick to judge. If my brother-in-law makes one false move with his infant son, my Sea Donkey of a sister-in-law is quick to snap, "Just give him to me!" Then she'll look at me, shake her head, and sigh. How is it possible that men can be so stupid?

Well, bitch, if you gave the guy half a fucking chance, maybe he'd get the hang of this whole parenting thing.

And fiscal responsibility? Go look up the price of a Coach purse and then tell me which sex is more likely to blow large quantities of money on stupid shit.

I have a proposal: I'll give up any Coach purse in the whole world for one chance on that bright red Jaguar the local dealer has, the one that only women desire.

The whole Violent Acres post is an odd one. It's a trumpet blast in the Grand Battle Of The Sexes where the two armies of Good Men and Evil Women face each other across a field, with spears raised and helmets lowered, and the writer is rooting for the army of the guys. But then the conclusion of the post suggests that the women should just be nice and there would be no war:

Most of all, I wonder if my experiences with men have been mainly positive because I don't treat them with disgust, suspicion or disdain. True equality cannot exist when one party is constantly being portrayed at superior to the other party. Men will quit being the enemy when you start treating them like friends.


Throws Like A Girl

I came across an interesting opinion piece on the British feminist site The F Word. It is about political correctness gone wild (like Girls Gone Wild, heh). You know, having someone point out that calling women cunts doesn't tell flattering things about the caller. The writer of the piece, Sarah Louisa Phythian-Adams, believes that misogynistic language has made a comeback:

The landslide I'm talking about is the MTV language of a generation that seem to believe they already have equality and think Feminism is what Germaine Greer from Big Brother used to do back in the 70's when it was fashionable. In this brave new world of modern language people get 'bitch slapped' and 'pimped', they 'squeal like a bitch' or moan like one and 'erotic' is the new word for any kind of sexual practice that departs from that terribly old fashioned idea of love-making, even when this borders on abuse. And with these new extremes, the middle has started to bend toward the old extremes as the drip, drip, drip effect compiles this new and 'exiting' language into the collective unconscious and we all start to internalise ever more misogynistic lingo.

A few hours of TV - the kind that excuses its language as that of its target (the 18-24 year old male), but is happy to admit that its audience is actually a more general 12-34 - churns out a conveyor belt of derogatory terms, so much so that you lose the will to count. They are of course, most often engendered to women: slag, bitch, slapper, bimbo, whore, hussy, tart, old biddy, total crone, etc. Although I have noticed that the last two are especially reserved for the impudent recurrence of Madonna, a woman who should, according to those who are the experts (and by this I mean radio DJs and TV presenters), know when to give up.

If you're cool you're a 'dog' and any woman is a 'bitch' or a 'ho', especially if you're a pimp, when she's not just a bitch but YOUR bitch. But if they're attractive - they might be fit mooses. (Yes, that is moose with a double plural) and let's not forget those who happen to be married to or dating some male celebrity, who are of course now one of the WAGs.
almost anything can become an insult if you add 'like a girl' to the end of it

In media land, one TV presenter will bullishly joke 'stop being such a big girl' and think nothing of accusing another of doing XYZ 'like a girl'. In fact, almost anything can become an insult if you add 'like a girl' to the end of it. Which they do frequently: even the girls.

I have noticed the widespread use of bitches and hos and cunts and sluts and so on in the blogosphere comments threads, though in the political blog comments they are equally often applied to men. Whether this is a return of misogynistic language in general or just the arrival of it into all our homes through the internet I don't know. The internet has the ability to make things clear that one may only have known by hearsay before its arrival. Right now, for example, I could direct you to many websites where womanhaters gather. Reading what they say is very different from some abstract knowing that they exist.

In any case, most users of the language that belittles women or girls are not misogynists or even necessarily sexists. The language we use is given to us by the society in which we live and many of those phrases have a lot of punch in them.

The ones about girls, such as "throwing like a girl" don't seem quite so punchy to me, and I've wondered why they are used so much. Here are some examples I've collected from political blogs (mostly Eschaton) in the last few months:

Since all I've got for the tome is unadulterated, schoolgirl-like praise, a review wouldn't quite have worked, so I'm just going to shoehorn it in here.
Played by Tony "Throws Like a Girl" Perkins in the movie?

The troops at the gate, Big Dick puts the shotgun in his mouth, pulls the trigger . . . forgets the 28-gauge is a pussy gun, loads another round . . ..

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! I got a big kick out of the fact that Cheenee, the tuffy wuffy, uses a god damn girl's gun to slaughter wounded quail.
so you vote republican i can assume? you do act like a 12-year old girl

I've tried to find some examples of where a person might get compared to a 12-year old girl as a form of compliment, but the only one I can think of would be about someone being as skinny and that might not be a compliment to an adult-height person, either. Yet girls of that age group are fantastic in many ways: full of energy and curiosity, unafraid to try many different hobbies or to learn new things.


An anti-feminist article is so impossible to decipher that it is not worth criticizing, and this is the case with this extremely odd and almost hallucinatory piece by Nancy Levant. She has also written a book about the horror that is American women.

Reminder to self: Write a hundred times: "I will not be like those other horrible women! I will acquire an honorary penis!"
Via feministe.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The S.P.E.E.C.H.

I listened to it tonight. George Bush's speech. About the surge. It is very exhausting to even write about it, except in tiny, tiny sentences. But there is no new strategy for Iraq, really, except that more than 20,000 more troops will be sent to Baghdad. So that the sectarian violence can be quelled. For a few weeks, anyway.

The Iraqis are also supposed to shape up and start bearing responsibility for the military and the police which were destroyed by the Americans. And the Iraqi military and police are supposed to patrol Baghdad, too, and stop all sectarian violence. Except, of course, for the fact that many of the Iraqi military and police are part of the sects which are fighting each other, and some of the forces that are perhaps going to be employed are Kurds which are yet in another tribal group.

It would be wonderful if all this worked. It would also be wonderful if the reconstruction that Bush also advocated would work. I'm scratching my head a little here, as I thought we had already paid billions for reconstruction? Where did all that money go? Are we allowed to know before we spend even more billions? And will some Iraqis get water and electricity soon?

Bush said nothing about getting the countries in the area together under some sort of a diplomatic umbrella. It seemed to me that instead of that he was making war moves against Iran.

And how does all this relate to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group? You can guess. George pretty much decided to pick the opposite of any major recommendations of the commission. Perhaps just to show that he can?
Here is Keith Olbermann.

The Hostile Enemy

According to the Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, the "hostile enemy" is Senator Edward Kennedy:

This morning on Fox News, anchor Gretchen Carlson called Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) a "hostile enemy" of the United States because he has demanded that Congress vote on whether to approve funding for escalation in Iraq. In an interview with White House counselor Dan Bartlett, Carlson compared Kennedy to insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, saying that Kennedy represented the same kind of force "right here on the home front."


Dan Bartlett disagreed, saying that the White House doesn't "view Ted Kennedy as a hostile enemy" of the United States.

That speech is free does not mean that it is without consequences. To call what in other countries would be called the loyal opposition a hostile enemy is a refusal to see all Americans as citizens of this country, a callous attempt to fan the flames of violence and the process of "othering" some of us. It is disgusting, destructive and dangerous.

Supporting the Surge?

Most Americans don't support the idea of yet another surge:

But a new Gallup poll, taken over the past four days, finds that "the American public in general opposes the concept of an increase in troops in Iraq."

Asked directly about the idea, 36% back it and 61% oppose. Of that, only 18% "strongly" support the idea.

Gallup also notes that the same poll shows that 54% want a complete pullout within 12 months.

Keep this in mind when interpreting the profound ruminations of various pundits on this topic. And also when listening to George Bush on the surge tonight.

Who Threatens The Family?

I couldn't fall asleep right away last night and started thinking about the peripheral things that lurk in my snakebrain, one being the repeated echo of the term "patriarchal family" and the dangers it finds itself in. In the wingnut world the dangers the patriarchal family faces are much more serious than global warming, even more serious than the Islamofascistterrorists, because as Dinesh D'Sousa told us, if only we kept the patriarchal family safe we wouldn't get attacked. Get thee into your burqa, woman!

So. As I began to say, I did a squirrel wheel thought exercise with the dangers that supposedly threaten the patriarchal family: abortion, homosexuals wanting to get married, single mothers having children, lesbians having children without a father, mothers having jobs. Notice something very interesting? Nothing a heterosexual man might do is construed as a threat to the patriarchal family. Even extramarital sex and such is just fun and games for the men, but a real problem when women join in without the proper feelings of guilt and the needed societal shaming.

It's only the women and the gays and the lesbians which threaten the family. Taken at face value, the wingnuts are perfectly fine with divorced men not paying child maintenance or not seeing their children ever again. They are also perfectly fine with heads of patriarchal households who abuse or beat their spouses or children. I am not saying that this would be what heterosexual men do as a rule or even very often. But these things do happen, especially in a patriarchal family, and the religious and conservative right seldom gets its panties into a wad about them.

It is not really a defense of the family or the marriage these people are interested in, because if they truly were we would see much more writing about the nasty underbelly of the patriarchal family and its bad effects on the children, say. It is purely a defense of patriarchy, the costs be damned, and the attack is framed as one against "the family" because most everybody likes the idea of protecting something they think of as the family.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Edward Kennedy's Speech

You can read a transcript here. The speech is all about president Bush's manly surge concept and its impracticality in the framework of history.

I found the comments to the transcript (which is on a NYT blog) even more interesting. Though the readers of the blog are probably not a fair cross-section of Americans with different opinions it is still odd to find that those who disliked what Kennedy said tend not to have very many facts in their arguments. Instead, the arguments are emotional and have to do with winning, patriotism, unquestioning obedience to the presidency and the view that Democrats would never defend this country against anyone, though at the same time it's unclear if the individuals having these feelings actually know who the enemy is that we need to defend against.

Almost magical thinking. This is a concern, because I'm not sure how one would argue against magical thinking. Logic is pretty powerless there.

Stick To The Center

The freshman Democrat Joe Donnelly from Indiana tells Nancy Pelosi that she better stay in the moderate muddle-middle or the Democrats will be out in two years. Out, damned spot, out!:

If Pelosi ``goes too far one way or another, we're not coming back,'' Donnelly says. He sees his party's victory in the November elections as less an endorsement of its agenda than a rejection of Republican rule: ``People just got real tired of this bunch, and they fired them.''

Donnelly's view reflects those of many of the 30 House Democrats elected in districts previously held by Republicans. Their fragile hold on their seats means they'll be pushing their new speaker, who represents heavily Democratic San Francisco, to limit confrontations with President George W. Bush and the Republicans over taxes, the war in Iraq, stem-cell research and abortion.

The muddy middle as the safe place to politick from has three possible problems for me:

First, it's not unthinkable that very few people actually inhabit this interesting swampland (see the reference to the new Time blog?). Sometimes a middle is empty, in the sense that it's quite hard to see what the moderate position might be between those who don't want any stem-cell research at all and those who do want it. An itsy-bitsy amount of such research? See the difficulty here?

Second, where the middle is depends largely on where we perceive the extremes to be and the wingnuts have been very successful in pulling the political dimension further and further to the right so that now a fairly moderate liberal is labeled as a communist or a fascist, and the likes of Glenn Beck are given this description in the mainstream media:

"Glenn is a leading cultural commentator with a distinct voice," said Jim Murphy, senior executive producer of "Good Morning America." "At times, he is the perfect guest for many of the talk topics we cover on morning news programs."

And what does this "leading cultural commentator" say on various topics? A few examples:

# Beck referred to "those who were left in New Orleans [during Hurricane Katrina], or who decided to stay" as "scumbags."
# Beck called antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan "a pretty big prostitute." He later described her as a "tragedy pimp."
# During a discussion of the "politically correct world we live in," claimed that Braille on walls (used to identify rooms for blind people) "drives me out of my mind." He then said, "Just to piss them [blind people] off, I'm going to put in Braille on the coffee pot ... 'Pot is hot.' "

Third, the drive towards the middle is almost completely directed at those who are viewed as being of the left persuasion. I see no deep introspective thinking among the wingnuts about the need to move towards the center. They're not budging, unless it is to move further towards Attila the Hundom.

Sad Again.

Kevin Hayden of American Street is also quitting blogging. Kevin is wonderful. He let me blog on the Street. Well, that is not the only reason why he is wonderful. We will all miss him and hope that he comes back after a break.

Skippy today posted on the many bloggers who have departed the blogosphere for something else, and the reasons for their departures are fairly obvious: Intensive blogging is intensive, time-consuming and tiring, and most of us must find a way to make money outside it. I'm not sure if even a full salary for blogging would really work to make it a long-term occupation. It is impossible to be "good" every day, impossible to always have many well-researched posts on the very latest topic of the day, impossible not to once in a while post something erroneous and half-assed, to be then torn apart like so much roadkill. It's a wonder that so many of us are willing to do that all. Maybe someone should study blogging as an addiction?

It's All The Fault Of The Liberals

Dinesh d'Sousa has figured it all out: If only we in the West lived just like the Taliban wanted the Afghanis to live, well, then Osama bin Laden and other Islamic terrorists wouldn't be angry at us any longer! And they would leave us alone, too!

So it is the fault of Hollywood and the liberals and the feminazis that the United States was attacked. Nothing whatsover to do with the American bases in Saudi Arabia or the American imperialism in general or the Israel-Palestine conflict. Nosir! It's just all that stuff like having women drive around unaccompanied in skimpy clothes.

Now you know. d'Sousa really kinda likes bin Laden. Brothers under the skin.

There is so much wrong with d'Sousa's thesis, and in no reality-based world would I even have to mention his ideas. But our world is not reality-based and people like d'Sousa get paid for writing books on their extremist and harebrained ideas.

But I do wish the wingnuts finally made up their minds: Are we lefties in cahoots with the terrorists or the cause why they attack the United States? You really can't have it both ways.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Left Behind, by Joe Klein

A new blog has just been birthed by the Time Magazine, and Joe Klein wrote the inaugural post on it (via Prospect). The name of the post is "Left Behind" and here are the first few sentences:

I'm afraid I'm going to get cranky about this: The Democrats who oppose the so-called "surge" are right. But they have to be careful not to sound like ill-informed dilettantes when talking about it.

It's like falling into some inner science fiction world to contemplate the Left Behind series of rapture-ready science fiction, taken as the literal truth by so many, while reading this post. Who is it, exactly, that comes across as ill-informed in this world where creationist books are sold at the Grand Canyon site? The Democrats, that's who. It is they who have forgotten to do their homework, to study all the facts. I don't remember many journalists telling the Republicans that they have to be careful about anything, these past six years.

The Time is in financial trouble, by the way, as is the case with many other magazines and newspapers. The internet technology has not yet managed to find a way to make people pay sufficiently for what they read, and I sympathize with the problem. The Donate-buttons don't really work.

Sad. So Sad.

Michael Bérubé is going to close his wonderful blog down. I'm very sad. First Billmon, now Bérubé. Is this some sort of a hex on people with names that start with the letter B?

As Michael notes, we can still read him in other contexts. Which helps a little but not enough. But thank you for the three years you gave us in the blogosphere, Michael. May the snakes guard your path with ferocious tenderness.

Something in Michael's farewell blog strikes a bell with anyone who has tried blogging even semi-seriously:

Blog maintenance on this scale is a daily, sometimes hourly thing, regardless of whether there’s a new post up. And even if I didn’t try to maintain the blog on this scale (a good idea in itself), there’s still the problem of the invisible blogging. I don’t write these posts out in advance, you know. I sit down for an hour or two (more for the really long posts), write them in one take in WordPerfect, look ‘em over, transfer ‘em to the blog, preview, edit, submit, and then proofread one last time once they’re up. (Because sometimes you can’t catch a typo until it’s really up there on the blog, and even then, I’ve missed a bunch so far.) Which means, among other things, that I do a great deal of the planning-before-the-writing while I’m not blogging. And that’s what’s been so mentally exhausting. It’s like ABC from Glengarry Glen Ross: Always Be Composing. And while it’s been great mental exercise, and it’s compelled me to think out (and commit myself in public to) any number of things that otherwise would have laid around the mental toolshed for years, it’s not the kind of thing I can keep up forever, and it wouldn’t be seriously affected if I went to a lighter posting schedule. I’d still spend way too much time thinking about the Next Post and the Post After That.

There is an umbilical cord from the blogger to the blog and some days one is always tripping on it.

Profiles In Grudge Bearing

The Times in the U.K. ran a profile on Nancy Pelosi. It is not an attempt to flatter her, and even the most obtuse reader picks that up from the title of the piece: "Now she has the power to go with her grudges". Even the ending reinforces the overall message:

A woman leader who nurses a grudge, even at the risk of defeat, can expect hostile scrutiny. But for the moment she is lapping up the applause. "She's absolutely giddy at the thought of being America's most powerful woman," said a journalist. "She's really up there on her own." And it's a long way down.

You know, it's a very well-written profile, in the sense that if I hadn't read other articles about the same biographical facts earlier I might not have picked on the judging and insinuating that the writer adds here. To give you just one example, look at this paragraph:

But Pelosi has been used to getting her way since she was born on March 26, 1940. "There wasn't a lot of money for the best kind of clothes, but whatever the family could afford, Nancy got the best of," recalled her brother, Thomas, who served as mayor of Baltimore from 1967 to 1971. "Little Nancy" never went through an awkward, ugly-duckling phase, he said proudly. "She wasn't a tomboy."

Subtle! It is the first sentence that is not linked to any evidence. We have no idea if Nancy wanted to have the best clothes or not. Perhaps it was her parents who wanted to dress her nicely, as the only daughter? Perhaps Nancy disliked it all? Well, now we all have this image of the little self-centered princess ruling over her impoverished family. Rush Limbaugh never gets to this level of persuasive half-truths and smears. Maybe the British do misogyny better?

To return to the final comments of the article:

A woman leader who nurses a grudge, even at the risk of defeat, can expect hostile scrutiny. But for the moment she is lapping up the applause. "She's absolutely giddy at the thought of being America's most powerful woman," said a journalist. "She's really up there on her own." And it's a long way down.

What a masterpiece it is. There is that little "woman" qualifier for the leader, which tells us that a man leader nursing a grudge wouldn't expect hostile scrutiny. And the whole nursing-grudges-at-the-risk-of-defeat structure! Pure artistry! Especially as both the idea of the grudges and the concept of defeat are pretty much drawn out of a hat. These things would be called something quite different if Nancy Pelosi was a man. The grudges might be called "political differences" and the risk of defeat might be called "willingness to take risks".

Then we have the Speaker of the House LAPPING up the applause, like a cat might lap up cream. Not a bad connection there, either. Let's make it even more incredible by adding a diagnosis of what Pelosi must be feeling right now, by some unidentified journalist! And then we can predict her fall from the power as she deserves it.

The Sudden Touch Of The Absurd

This headline I saw on Saturday:

Violence Flares in Somalia Over Disarmament

Who Put Our Oil Under Their Sand?

Well, now that oversight will be fixed:

Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.

The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

The huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to critics who say the Iraq war was fought for oil. They point to statements such as one from Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said in 1999, while he was still chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton, that the world would need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day by 2010. "So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said.

Oil industry executives and analysts say the law, which would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years, is the only way to get Iraq's oil industry back on its feet after years of sanctions, war and loss of expertise. But it will operate through "production-sharing agreements" (or PSAs) which are highly unusual in the Middle East, where the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's two largest producers, is state controlled.

Opponents say Iraq, where oil accounts for 95 per cent of the economy, is being forced to surrender an unacceptable degree of sovereignty.

The percentage of profits the Western companies can pocket will drop to 20% after the expenses have been "recouped". But that is still twice the going rate now.

Imagine what bargaining powers the Iraqis possess right now, having just witnessed the hanging of Saddam Hussein and the fall of Baghdad into barbarity. This is not how "free" markets are supposed to operate. But it seems as if this is how occupations operate.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Left Is More Moral Than The Right,

Or, We have learned something from the history of the past thirty years, haven't we?

Posted by olvlzl

Do you think that your political positions are morally superior to positions you've rejected? Sounds strange when you put it that way, doesn't it. Why would you hold a position you weren't convinced was morally superior? Only two possibilities come to mind, unthinkingly following tradition and practicing self-interest divorced from morals. There are some positions that seem to be adopted by reason alone but since just about everything government does has an effect on the well being of someone, those certainly have a moral dimension, thought about or not.

The first post on my blog claimed our right to believe the moral superiority of our political positions and their firm base in reason. We have to stop cowering in conditional statements and apologetic poses of false modesty. Those are ineffective and weak and are not honest. It's not our personal virtue that is at question, it doesn't all come down to us. It's that our political positions are firmly grounded in the common good, reason over superstition, generosity over greed and facing that large parts of our law favor the wealthy few over the rest with no basis other than that they have the power to bend the law to their liking. If anyone doesn't agree that our positions are superior we should require better arguments than "that's the way it is" and "you're self-righteous" because that's about all there is to most of it.

The fear of asserting the moral superiority of liberalism is that we'll be as obnoxious as William Bennett, that moral exemplar of the right, and the rest of those modern pillars of morality who lecture us continually while enjoying lives so self-indulgent they would make ancient Roman aristocrats blanche. Now that Ann Coulter has joined the ranks of spokesmen of conservative "values" there is no doubt that morality or even sanity are not requirements to join in that number. There are people who like to lord their own superiority over other people but they are mighty few on the left as compared to those on the right. Conservatives certainly haven't suffered any ill effects from their being moral nags.

Of course, if we stand behind our convictions they will accuse us of self-righteousness. They do now even when there is a total absence of any assertion of righteousness on our part. As mentioned, this is in the face of the tidal wave of finger waving everyone but the wealthy gets from the right wing axis of drivel. They'll do it anyway but why should we listen to them? Are you afraid of annoying conservatives? If one of us gets too full of themselves that 's the time to tell the person to cut it out but it's no reason to stop believing in our positions.

Conservatives, as always, make the mistake of thinking that morality is all about them, an adornment of their sacred selves. That's how they see it and they think that's the way everyone does. But that's their problem, not ours.

People on the left have some great examples to follow. There is no doubt that Martin Luther King had a deep knowledge of his moral failings. There isn't a great moral leader who isn't aware of their flaws. And there were people like J. Edgar Hoover to remind him if he ever forgot. But can you doubt that he had absolute faith in the rightness of his beliefs? He put his life, the lives of his family and friends, the bodies and lives of countless people on the line for those beliefs over and over again. And no one knew more about what that really risked than he did. He knew from experience that some day the attacks he and his family had survived would likely end in one that would kill them. He knew what that looked like, he had seen it with his own eyes. Keeping on with that knowledge doesn't come without complete conviction.

If we don't have the courage to believe in the morality of our positions, we won't ever have the courage to change anything.

First posted on olvlzl Monday, June 26, 2006

Frank’s Grand Bargain, Again

Posted by olvlzl.
Harry Bliss’ cartoon in my paper yesterday, had a huge devil overseeing a downward spiral of people going ever lower into the flames. At the bottom is sign announcing an eternal economics seminar. The only words coming out of one of the damned is, “It’s worse than I thought,”.

Not being foolish enough to invite comparison with Barney Frank by writing a lot here, you should read the transcript of his address to the National Press Club the other day. It is so full of ideas and sense that even a socialist who is extremely skeptical of the benefits of free trade, like me, has to take notice. Deep in the text is this:

Now, it's an interesting fact of life in American politics today how angry it's gotten that at this point I will report to you that both sides that I have approached in terms of the bargain think it's a bad idea because they think I'm going to sell out to the other one.

The degree of confidence Americans have today is fairly low. Fortunately, I've got a pretty safe district, so I can ride out the skepticism until we get to prove it. But here's what I'm trying to do.

I'm trying to show people, look, I am a liberal. I am a strong supporter of the liberal position. I have voted against the trade bills. I have been critical of many aspects of what the business community wanted, partly because I disagree in substance, partly because I will not support policies even if I might agree with them if they're going to have short-term negative effects and no longer-term benefits.

I disagree strongly with academic opinion. Those of us who have been opposing trade bills from NAFTA on have been characterized as protectionists. We're Luddites. We're selfish. We don't understand poor people overseas, et cetera.

When I think about some of my extremely conservative colleagues who start lecturing me about the need to worry about poverty in Africa, it is harder than usual for me to remain civil.

You can count me as a skeptic, though Frank is about the last person I’d expect to sell us out. If he turns out to be wrong in his Grand Bargain, he won’t be the one to flim-flam us. That is why it is so important for people on the left to study his ideas and to participate in the debate. This rather unglamourous topic can get pretty boring but so much is dependent on it, the environment, healthcare, collective bargaining, workers protection, outsourcing of jobs, driving down real wages.... We all have a vital stake in making certain that any bargains that are struck will not give us the NAFTA shaft again. And now that Barney Frank has made it clear, the “we” includes people around the world there is a possibility for them to advance without destroying the middle class here.

One of the most interesting ideas is to spend the money to buy out the option of developers and owners of housing to take their units out of price controls. The idea to use existing housing as a means of housing poor people is quite brilliant. I'd have to see how it would work. It would be wonderful for rampant homelessness to be considered a national disgrace again.

And, it being Barney Frank, there is humor, here is the way he began:

I was a little troubled when one of my Republican -- soon to be no longer a colleague -- in his campaign in Indiana said that if the Democrats won, Nancy Pelosi would allow me to implement the radical homosexual agenda. The problem is that he lost. He was the first Republican declared defeated on Election Day, and that apparently left some people expecting me to produce a radical homosexual agenda, and I don't have one. I felt inadequate.

I mean, I do think we should allow gay and lesbian people to serve in the military and get married and have a job but, by tradition of radical standards, being in the military, working for a living and getting married are not the stuff of radicalism. So I'm still looking for a way to satisfy that demand

Too bad he comes from the party that hasn’t had any ideas for the past sixty years.

Two Issues Before The Storm

Posted by olvlzl.

A Typist’s Query

hat is the reason for having the “Insert” key? The only thing it’s ever done for me is to force me to do a lot of editing and retyping when it’s accidentally hit and I continue to type without looking at the screen. What is its function?

The Insert function has always seemed to me to point to some long ago computer programmer coming up with what was thought to be a clever piece of code. For the user of a word processor it has the aroma of some ancient engineer showing off, it geeks of it, you might say. If the idea is to keep typists on their toes, it isn’t working. If the idea was to irritate them, that one is a total success.

An Answer, (Perhaps To Be Read In The Voice Of Horace Rumpole)

t’s been mentioned before that yours truly has very poor eyesight. I regularly rely on expanding the letter size on my monitor to very high numbers. Even at that magnification I sometimes have a hard time telling the difference between a period and a comma, sometimes I don’t notice if they are missing. Apostrophes* are even worse. Blogger, on my computer, doesn’t exactly make this any easier.

Added to this, I am an indifferent speller out of deeply held principles of equality and justice. Standard English spelling, the subject of my most controversial posts to date**, is a nightmare that the majority of native speakers have never and will never master. It has been my experience that people who don’t master it can be either very stupid or brilliantly, well, brilliant. The same is true of people who do master this rather minor skill. It doesn’t seem to be a matter of intelligence or diligence but of having the knack of a good visual memory. Many of us do not have such a faculty and attempts to attain one are, in the main, futile.

After decades of looking up the irregular and forgotten spellings of words which I knew perfectly well how to use in a sentence, I decided that life was too short to spend precious minutes making up for the idiocy of those in control of the standard spelling of my language. I, my friends, am a complete anarchist when it comes to the written form of the English language. Give us rules that work and I might consider converting to those, the present ones are so absurd as to invite ridicule.

This point was brought into perfect clarity the day that I discovered that I could spell better in Spanish, a language I speak with all the fluency of a slow three-year-old, than I can in English, in which I can discuss a number of complicated ideas. Spanish spelling was reformed rationally and made phonetic, the standard spelling of English was given over to show-offs and would-be etymologists. The results are as could be expected.

As life grows more complex and it is necessary for children and adults to deal with sophisticated areas of science, math, history and a myriad of other subjects, the absurd, non-phonetic standard spelling of the English language will break down. There simply won’t be the time or resources to teach or enforce the standard non-system and society will not be able to afford to have large numbers of its citizens stunted by assigning them to the sort of official half-life of those excluded from what is deemed correct use of the written form of the language. Practicality and necessity will win out over official morality.

The rule of standard English spelling is breaking down now. You can see it everywhere, on the internet, in magazines and newspapers, even in printed books which had the leisure of no deadline except a commercial one. The logical ways to approach this truth are to come up with a more nearly phonetic spelling or to get used to the reestablishment of non-standard spelling***. English got along for most of its existence without standardized spelling and the complex rules of punctuation that have ruled for most of the past two-hundred years. The social, political and economic conditions that allowed the leisure for those to reign are fast disappearing.

I never judge anyone on their incomplete acquisition of the official standards of written English nor on those who are fussy about them. I do not accept those standards and claim my right, as a speaker of the language, to own the language and to use it in all its forms. You, my friends who use English, have exactly the same right, to use it as you see fit and as fits how you see.

* By the way, look up the history of the apostrophe as used in the genitive case in written English. It is based on the most absurd and unscholarly folk etymology with no basis in reason, history or grammar. Apostrophes should only be used in contractions for words that actually existed outside the imaginations of lazy, sloppy, self-appointed, 18th century language experts and those unfortunate enough to have fallen for their slop.

**The controversies over standard English spelling were many times more heated and emotional than those I accidentally set off over religion.

*** Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, George Bernard Shaw,... I’ll stand with them over Johnson and Webster any day.

Note: Much as I would like to entertain you with the story of the future small-time gangster who was the spelling champion of my school district, he just might possibly recognize me and he knows where I live. If he should happen to pass on before I do, the story is quite funny.

I should also explain that I have no fewer than four elementary school teachers in my immediate family, I've had this argument before.