Wo De Hanyu Bu Hao

But, on the other hand, I can remember how to say "Wo yao yi ping Pijiu." Da ping.

The occasion for all of this is that a poor school here in Georgia is making Mandarin mandatory. Why? Because China is offering instructors for about half what they'd have to pay an instructor in any other language: $16,000 a year.

Now, how useful will this be to the students? Well, in theory it could be quite useful: Chinese is one of the most different languages from English, in structure, in terms of being tonal, and in terms of having a character-based writing system. Studying it even a bit will help you see that many things you take for granted about how thoughts should be formed and ordered is not, in fact, logically necessary but a mere consequence of the language in which you learned to think.

That is also true, by the way, of artificial languages. Bertrand Russell and others hoped to eliminate this tendency to confuse logic with grammar in part by instituting formalized ways of writing. The problem turns out to be that you just introduce new errors of grammar, but now believe that you have said something logically necessary because you are writing in "the formal language of logic."

For example, I recently mentioned D. M. Armstrong's What is a Law of Nature? He makes a great deal -- by which I mean that he goes on for many pages -- out of a "paradox" that he believes is a serious problem. It's really just a case of mistaking grammar for logic. The problem arises here:

Fx: "x is a raven"
Gx: "x is black"

Now, what that says in plain language is, "All ravens are black." But what it says literally is more like "For every x, if x is a raven then x is black." The material conditional -- "⊃" -- is a logical function. It has a truth table so that you can determine when a given proposition is true.

For the material conditional, which links two terms, the truth table says that it is true any time the antecedent is false ("this is not a raven") or the consequent is true ("it is black"). Thus, if a given raven is black, the statement is true; if we find a white raven it is false. If we find something that isn't a raven, the statement is satisfied because this is only a rule about ravens.

Dr. Armstrong was greatly concerned by the fact that things that are not ravens have to be taken as helping to prove the rule that all ravens are black. (Nor is he the only one to treat this as if it were a serious problem.) He wasn't so concerned about cases of not-black things, because they seem to help reinforce the idea of a link between the categories of "raven" and "black." But what about black things that are not ravens? That seems to trouble him quite a bit.

In fact, though, this is just a convention of language. What we really have here is a rule about ravens: "All ravens are black." It's only the form of the logical language that requires us to express it as a universal truth about all things ("For every x"). We aren't talking about all things. We're talking about ravens.

What the formal language forces us to do is to say something purely formal and empty: "Every not-raven either is or is not black." In any natural language we would omit this formality because it's entirely irrelevant. Those logicians who take this as a serious problem -- something that might, for example, seriously inform our understanding about the laws of nature -- have fooled themselves. They don't realize that they're doing the very thing that they set up this system to avoid doing.

John 18:17-27

Rep. Allen West has cut the first ad leveraging last night's vote.

The fact that he happened to call the vote three times is an interesting point, the symbolic importance of which Rep. West recognized immediately. I suspect this will be a very effective ad among evangelicals.

Res ipsa loquitur


The Last Ride of William Jefferson Clinton

Bill Clinton was and is a great speaker.

I love that he's making his stand on arithmetic, though.

"...let interests gobble up..."

Like entitlements? Where is that money coming from?

The worst challenge the establishment budgets face is simple arithmetic. The kind of money Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Pensions and Social Security require simply does not exist.

Oh, by the way: "If you think it is wrong to change voting procedures..."

Great pick for today, given certain recent votes on the DNC floor. They didn't change the procedures, it's true. Under Robert's Rules the chair has every right to declare an opinion about the outcome of a vote, and refuse to recognize objections from the floor.

Robert's Rules were written, though, in an era in which an unreasonable chair would be dragged outside for tar and feathers. It's not clear how they apply to a society unready to do that.

Hey, Funny Question

Elizabeth Warren says "the game is rigged" against ordinary Americans.

You know, I think that might even be true. Hey, who's been in charge of administering the rules of the game these last, say, four years?

What did those voices say again?

Don't know about you, but when I listen to this voice-vote, I don't hear two-thirds in favor of the platform amendment.

UPDATE by Grim: The Chair of the Democratic National Committee has just canceled all her media interviews for the rest of the night... during the second night of the Democratic National Convention. Her deputy, too.

Richard III

The hunt for King Richard III's grave is heating up, with archaeologists announcing today (Sept. 5) that they have located the church where the king was buried in 1485.

"The discoveries so far leave us in no doubt that we are on the site of Leicester's Franciscan Friary, meaning we have crossed the first significant hurdle of the investigation," Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on the dig, said in a statement.
Richard III was the last of the Plantagenets, the line that encompassed his namesake, Richard the Lionheart. He had a short, bold rule of two years only, dying at the battle of Bosworth Field that crowned the Wars of the Roses.

Shakespeare wrote of him. There are some good lines in that one. Here is a man who loves a woman who is unsure of him:  and does it in the old way, even to the point of death.
She looks scornfully at him

Teach not thy lips such scorn, for they were made
For kissing, lady, not for such contempt.
If thy revengeful heart cannot forgive,
Lo, here I lend thee this sharp-pointed sword;
Which if thou please to hide in this true bosom.
And let the soul forth that adoreth thee,
I lay it naked to the deadly stroke,
And humbly beg the death upon my knee.

He lays his breast open: she offers at it with his sword

Nay, do not pause; for I did kill King Henry,
But 'twas thy beauty that provoked me.
Nay, now dispatch; 'twas I that stabb'd young Edward,
But 'twas thy heavenly face that set me on.

Here she lets fall the sword

Take up the sword again, or take up me.

The Declining Stature of Barack Obama

Four years ago I used to get the occasional email about how then-Senator Obama was quite possibly the actual Anti-Christ. You may remember some of these.

Maybe I've just finally managed to get off all the email lists of this sort (though my quest to be free of political spam has not fully succeeded -- the Ron/Rand Paul faction continues to find new ways to email me). Still, I haven't heard anyone suggest that Barack Obama was the enemy of God in a long time. I can only believe that this means that he is no longer as feared as he once was: coming from nowhere, with a mysterious background and prophetic promises, he was much more scary than the now well-known incompetent golfer we have come to understand.

All of which is the more surprising given this:

The positions are not surprising, but what does surprise me is that they aren't trumpeted as evidence that the Anti-Crist fears were right all along. Yet it seems Barack Obama isn't even the Anti-Christ anymore. It's easy to see why. One cannot imagine the party of Bill Clinton undertaking these changes; but one can imagine the party of John Kerry doing it, and I suppose that is what the American people have come to believe. It's not just this guy: it's the party, which has aligned itself on issue after issue in the same direction.

The specific elimination of the word "God" from the platform came in the place where the platform considered the origin of rights. Previous platforms had held them to be "God-given," but now they are described as "a basic bargain" of some sort. That's a much more radical change than it appears; the older framework meant that rights were not a "bargain" at all.

Elise spoke to this very matter in her last post.
I can imagine few ideas more dangerous than the idea that our civil liberties** are whatever the government decides they are. American civil liberties were originally conceived as a way to protect us from the government; to assert that there are some rights that are ours by virtue of being human and that bestowing and removing them are beyond the reach of government. Government can violate them but it does not grant them and cannot take them away....

There is one positive thing I can say about both Mr. Moreno’s bullying and Mr. Kenney’s views of civil rights and religion: these men are being honest. As Ross Douthat said in his recent New York Times opinion piece:
If you want to fine Catholic hospitals for following Catholic teaching, or prevent Jewish parents from circumcising their sons, or ban Chick-fil-A in Boston, then don’t tell religious people that you respect our freedoms. Say what you really think: that the exercise of our religion threatens all that’s good and decent, and that you’re going to use the levers of power to bend us to your will.
The alderman and the councilman have done exactly as Douthat asked. Now we can, as Douthat says, "get on with the fight" - honestly.
That does seem to be where we are. In a way it's hopeful that we see it clearly.

Where Will The Jobs Come From?

VDH has a dire article on the condition of both the young and the old. The old cannot get by in retirement with savings that are drawing around one percent interest; the children cannot find work, and cannot pay for student loans that are drawing eight percent interest.

So we need jobs; lots of jobs. What's stopping jobs from being created? A lot of the problem is government.

1) Regulation, which he mentions.

2) Uncertainty of the costs associated with new regulations such as Obamacare.

3) Uncertainty occasioned by the election, the outcome of which could have vastly different potential costs for employers.

4) Sequestration, which has defense-related industries not hiring and DOD employees sweating bullets as to whether or not their jobs will be cut.

5) Government preference hiring means that someone who hasn't already been in the civil service or military won't get a job most of the time, unless they are a member of a minority group entitled to preferential hiring. Thus, when there is a government job open, it will more likely go to someone switching jobs within the government than to someone who is unemployed.

But there are also problems for the young associated with the new deal that the private sector is offering them (if it has jobs for them at all).

A) A job that might have been offered as a full-time job with benefits and appropriate pay will now be offered as a part-time job without benefits, and at a lower rate of pay; if a full-time person is needed, it is easier to hire two half-time people and pay less all around.

B) By the same token, a job that would have been part-time (and subject to minimum-wage laws) will now be offered as "temporary" or "seasonal" (and below minimum wage). This may continue to be the case for a job that lasts a year -- four "seasons" of below-minimum wage pay before you are eligible for minimum wage pay.

C) A job that might have been offered as a temporary but paid internship will now be offered as an unpaid internship. And you're lucky to get it, because it means you don't have to list "unemployed" on your resume.

D) With so many older people unemployed, there are competitors for even these lower-paid positions with greater skills and experience.

So government is a big part of the problem; but some of the problem is an actual market correction. Americans aren't worth as much as they used to be, and we're finding ways to pay them less. I see no reason to believe that will change even if job creation picks up; so if you're young, good luck.

Oh, and by the way, whatever you do make? We'll be needing that for state and Federal pensions, health care, Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. These are entitlements, so you're just going to have to pay for them whether you can afford it or not.


I find it interesting that the platforms of the parties have been allowed to be written in such a purely principled way.

The Republican platform on abortion calls for a total ban in all circumstances, even when the mother would otherwise die (and the child with her). The only way it could be purer would be to call for punishing abortionists as murderers.

The Democratic platform, by contrast, goes so far as to call for free abortions ("regardless of ability to pay") in all circumstances whatsoever, presumably right up to the moment of birth. Not only shall we permit any woman who wishes to kill a perfectly healthy child that is two minutes from birth, we shall require Catholics and Mormons and Muslims to help pay for it. Everyone will contribute to this national sacrament: we will all be accomplices, we will all provide material support for it. It's not clear that any greater purity is possible; I suppose we could endorse infanticide after birth. This weekend I read of a young woman who had killed her child shortly after it was born, and who is now on trial. If she had made up her mind about it just a few days earlier, she would have been entitled to kill the child, and you and I would be required to pay for the procedure.

There is no wide public support for either set of propositions. The actual politicians who are running rarely adhere to these pure positions themselves, and might well not vote for a bill brought before them that attempted to enact these rules. The voters would probably punish anyone who actually attempted to enact either set of rules.

The Driving Instructor

News articles about Clint Eastwood's performance at the RNC compare his work to an old Bob Newhart sketch. Here's the one they're talking about; see for yourself.


Well, who cares, as long as it looks good for me?
I'm an old non-com who, as a bachelor lived in the barracks, and as such I'm well aware of the excitement that permeates any military barracks in the days leading up to a four-day, holiday weekend like Labor Day. Virtually every soldier has made big plans to escape his military existence for four precious days and spend that time with family or friends. Many will have to use the first and fourth days for travel to and from distant destinations, which means only two, crucial days of holiday pleasure for them, sandwiched between two less pleasant days of travel, especially if they must fly commercially. Take away just one of those days and many of those soldiers' plans will either have to be scrapped entirely or the time at home or whatever destination, be reduced to a single day. Plans made long in advance have to be rescheduled, a sometimes quite difficult task when it regards holiday weekend travel: flight changes may be impossible and hotels are booked solid; neither may allow changes in reservations without severe financial penalties.

So, some hotshot in the Obama campaign, feeling badly stung by the sparse turnouts for the president's visits to other locales, gets a bright idea of how to produce a really big crowd for a photo op: "Hey, let's schedule one for some military facility where the commander can be ordered to produce a big audience in a sufficiently impressive backdrop."

Hey, Look Who's Back!

Turns out he tried to escape down the overflow from the tub. Didn't work out for him, in the short term. In the long term, though, it's much better for him. He's doing time in a big plastic trash can until we find a better habitat. Going to grow the basement dragon up big and strong before we turn him loose to eat the mice.

We agreed on "Ratbane," from the names you recommended. I liked several of the entries, but I'm not the only vote around here.

One more from Rocket Science

Two hamsters, one wheel:

Not the usual graphic

Viewed from the South Pole, all hurricane tracks since 1851.

Brave New Pixar

I still haven't gotten around to seeing "Brave," which Grim wrote about earlier this year.  Here's a new review that speaks to many of the issues he raised, and a few he didn't:
I suppose most girls remember when they became aware of themselves as specifically female viewers.  Growing up in the eighties, I watched movies about boys and girls with equal relish, empathizing with the protagonists and getting totally absorbed in story without my parts getting consciously in the way.  When I realized the boys in my classes didn’t do the same thing — they refused to see themselves in female protagonists and found the prospect humiliating to contemplate — I felt I had overstepped my bounds.  Feeling simultaneously embarrassed at being so profligate with my sympathy and spiteful towards those who weren’t, I started watching movies the way I was supposed to:  as a girl, specifically. 
Boy, was it bleak. 
If you don’t get to be Indiana Jones and have to think about how he is with girls, if you have to wonder, while watching Treasure Island, whether any of the characters you loved would even talk to you, movies become kind of painful.  You do find ways around it. For one thing, you start actively seeking out stories where people don’t rule you out quite so much.  You look for “girl movies.”  Barring some truly wonderful exceptions, you get used to eating the same three meals over and over, forever.  Without thinking about it too hard I’ll approximate them as spunkiness, pathos, and transformation.  Working Girl, He’s Just Not That Into You, Grease.  Again, some of these are great.  Most are derivative.
The somewhat tortured exegesis that follows describes a different sort of meal.

The British, At Least, Were Impressed

Ms. Janet Daily writes in The Daily Telegraph:
[T]his campaign is going to consist of the debate that all Western democratic countries should be engaging in, but which only the United States has the nerve to undertake. The question that will demand an answer lies at the heart of the economic crisis from which the West seems unable to recover. It is so profoundly threatening to the governing consensus of Britain and Europe as to be virtually unutterable here, so we shall have to rely on the robustness of the US political class to make the running.

What is being challenged is nothing less than the most basic premise of the politics of the centre ground: that you can have free market economics and a democratic socialist welfare system at the same time...

You can [given the new economic reality] decide to debauch the currency which underwrites the market economy, or you can dispense with democracy. Both of these possible solutions are currently being tried in the European Union, whose leaders are reduced to talking sinister gibberish in order to evade the obvious conclusion: the myth of a democratic socialist society funded by capitalism is finished.
She offers some analysis to support this proposition, and considers the shape of the American presidential contest.

She has another point at the end that may be worth considering as much as anything else: many Americans voted for then-Senator Obama in 2008 to prove that America could elect a black president. Yet it will be when we can evaluate one on the same terms as any other President that we will have proven that we are truly post-racial.

UPDATE: Speaking of the latter, 54% say that the President does not deserve re-election if we consider his record alone.

Whence This Fear of Judgment?

Via FARK, a news story about a new steak-serving restaurant that is only for women:
The Desperate Housewives star is, according to folks at Perez Hilton, apparently geared up to open a women-only steakhouse in Las Vegas, so that women can give into their secret cravings for delicious meat WITHOUT the judging eyes of their male companions upon them.

Pardon? Is that genuinely a thing that women are worried about when tucking into a juicy plate of peppered steak?
I don't know that it is, but this fear of being judged is something that I hear from female acquaintances very often. It is expressed as resentment of people that they think were judging them (based on some internal intuition about what those people must-have-been / might-have-been thinking); or it's expressed as relief and comfort that they think they are in an area where no one will be judging them; or it's expressed aspirationally as their hope or intention for a given group ('This should be a judgment-free zone'); or it's expressed ironically, but with the clear underlying intent that they should be free to behave in a given way without being judged ('No judging!').

Now many of these same women make judgments about others that are quite harsh, so perhaps they are simply pleading to be excepted from a viciousness that they know very well from their own hearts. However, some of them are kind-hearted themselves, whose fear is simply the fear that others will look on them with disapproval.

I don't understand the fear. For one thing, judgement is a good thing: it is an essential part of wisdom and the good life. Everyone should be trained in the faculty of judgment, so that they can make good decisions about what (and, indeed, whom) to admit into their lives, and in what proportions.

Furthermore, as the judgments of others about your internal states are necessarily made in ignorance, the judgments of others are a tool you can use for any honorable purpose. (Indeed, you can use it for quite dishonorable purposes, though I hope you will not.) People make judgments about me all the time, and I help make it easy for them. That their judgments are inaccurate does not bother me; in fact, it is to my advantage to be misjudged, since it leaves me with unsuspected capacities that can be brought to bear if necessary. For example if strangers judge me to be the kind of man best left alone, then I have the pleasure of being left alone. Their judgment is not to be feared, but engaged and used as one more tool in the pursuit of the good life.

I would urge you: Do not fear judgment, except that of God!

Make Up Your Mind, Joe

Joe Klein, Friday:
If the Democratic Party truly wants to be a party of inclusion, it must reach out to those who are currently excluded from its identity politics. It needs to disband its caucuses.

Joe Klein, Yesterday.

It's possible that this is more a critique of television than it is of Mr. Klein. If he'd been given longer to make his point, perhaps he'd have brought it around to the same place. Clearly he feels the need to preface this point (as he did in print) with a long preamble about how much he supports and approves of everything the caucus-based system has built; as well as a plain expression of support for the members and goals of each of the various caucuses he wants disbanded.

Perhaps you just can't say something that delicate on television.

The Wife Brings Home a Pet

So tonight the wife came in carrying one of her socks in her hand, instead of wearing it on her foot as you might expect. One end was tied off.

"Look what I found at work!" she said. "It's just the cutest little thing!"

Her plan had been to raise this one up until its big enough to compete with the big female rat snake who lives in the garden. Then I meant to let him be the basement dragon. I prefer a snake to the other means of rodent control.

However, within five minutes he had escaped the bath tub and down the heating/air vent, which means he's probably hunting mice (or at least spiders) in the basement even now.

I'm trying to think of a good name for a basement dragon.


Today we have an article explaining that the President is pandering especially hard to young people right now, because they are strangely un-energetic about supporting him this year.  Having just given out White House beer recipes yesterday, today he is trumpeting a local college pizzeria that has a pie called "the POTUS."  Apparently it has pepperoni, sausage, green peppers, black olives, and onion -- the latter few so 'you can tell Michelle' that you had some vegetables on your pizza.

I cite this article not for the news content, nor for analysis on what if anything it means about the race.  No, I cite it simply for the first entry in the comments section:
Wingnut • 21 mins ago

They also have a Biden pizza which is basically tomato sauce and parmesan served on your foot.

Bacon, Bread, and Fowl

It's a fine fowl that comes wrapped in bacon.

This one was cooked at five hundred degrees in black iron, for about an hour, and then broiled a bit to crisp the bacon. The bread was fresh-made from King Arthur flour, and the gravy was vibrant with pepper.