Sunday, August 29, 2010

About Pandering

Why do the politicians who want to put "Main Street" first think that doing so requires funneling money and power into East Capitol Street?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

About Slavery and Abortion

Abraham Lincoln said, "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong," and I agree with his sentiment. I should note, however, that I disagree with many of Lincoln's political assertions. Yet the above quote is not political. It is a moral statement recognizing that anyone appealing to justice and human rights must be against slavery.

In modern times, we simply know that slavery is wrong. Few, however, can express why.

In a nutshell: The institution of slavery was an established system of legally sanctioned inequality. When you take another man's liberty, you take his life. When you make a man your property, his property is made yours. Therefore, slavery violates the sacred principles that established this republic: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Those who defended slavery from its critics appealed not to what slavery did to enslaved men and women, but to the "benefits" of slavery--race control, and the economic health of slave owners. If slavery were abolished, then blacks could roam the country freely! If slavery were abolished, then much of the South's economic capital would simply vanish into thin air!

These concerns were real. There is no doubting that slavery both kept blacks under control and propped up the South's economy. White men and women throughout the country feared the social equality that might follow black mobility, and economic interests in the South (e.g. planters) and the North (e.g. textile mills) relied upon slave labor. Ending slavery would set blacks free and threaten the cotton supply. Of this there is no disputing.

Nonetheless, slavery was wrong, and there's no appealing to the inconvenience of abolition. Abolition hurt many, but slavery hurt more and deeper.

The same is true with abortion. If abortion is not wrong, then nothing is wrong. Abortion stops a heartbeat. It kills. There is no denying it. Saying that a fetus is not a person is as feeble an argument as saying that blacks are not persons.

The abolition of abortion will be inconvenient to many. It will put some women in uncomfortable positions. It will be costly to some women, families, and the state (which will certainly be called upon to care for unwanted babies).

But it doesn't matter.

Abolishing slavery ruined the planter class, but we are better as a people for it. No man has the right to build his wealth in such a way. Abolishing abortion will also have its costs, but they are worth it. No one has the right to kill another person simply because that person is an inconvenience.

About a Funny Bar-B-Que Video

I saw this on Tosh.0.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

About the Perils of Socialism (See Venezuela and Its Stalin: Hugo Chavez)

Read the whole article, but if you haven't time, these excerpts should suffice:

In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000.

...the climb in homicides in the past decade as unprecedented in Venezuelan history; the number of homicides last year was more than three times higher than when Mr. Chávez was elected in 1998.

Venezuela is struggling with a decade-long surge in homicides, with about 118,541 since President Hugo Chávez took office in 1999.

So you're more than three times more likely to die violently in Venezuela (a country at "peace" but suffering under a socialist dictatorship) than in Iraq. Did you catch that? It's safer to live in Baghdad than in Caracas.

This is not unprecedented. More Russian's died from Stalin and Marxism than from Hitler's war machine (and the wermacht killed 20,000,000!). In China, Mao has a similar record of killing more of his people than the Japanese did during WWII, and all in the name of progress.

The list goes on, and the lesson is clear. Socialism is deadly--often deadlier even than war.

Monday, August 23, 2010

About So-Called "Drug Violence" in Mexico

Add a comment to this post if you agree with me that the violence along the Mexican boarder (and elsewhere in Mexico) is the result not of drugs but of the drug war.

What caused the St. Valentine's Day Massacre? It wasn't alcohol. It was prohibition.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

About Minor, Personal Things

Our mattress is in bad shape--bad enough that my wife often retires to the couch in the middle of the night (and not because of me, BAR). We're looking into a Tempurpedic mattress. Does anyone out there have a Tempurpedic? Is one worth its expense?

BTW, I've a bit of time to make this decision. I'm owed some money, but it doesn't look like it's coming in any time soon.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

About Obama As a Machiavellian.

Read this interesting article from former vice-presidential candidate Wayne Allen Root on the possibility that Obama is purposefully screwing things up.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

About Nothing, Really

"I remember when I used to be into nostalgia."
--Demetri Martin

It's past midnight, and I'm sleepless. I tried a couple glasses of scotch--good 15 year Glenfiddich--,but I am wide awake.

Perhaps it's because I have no work tomorrow. I often have trouble sleeping when that is the case.

More likely, it's something else, and that something else is so personal that I cannot now (if ever) put it properly into words. I'm near Coos Bay, Oregon, the city of my birth and earliest years. My memories of the place are few--headless turkeys (don't ask), sand dunes, family friends, a small house, Shakey's Pizza.

In this region I was born, and though I have no affinity for the logging business, I am nonetheless drawn to it. I'd say that there's something "spiritual" about it, but that would sound (and be) utterly stupid.

What draws me to this place, I think, is that it was here that my father brought my mother to lay root and make a life. This he started to do and would have done if he hadn't become sick with cancer and died before my sixth birthday.

Say what you want, Freudians. I like cigars too.

Maybe I'll post something in the next couple of days, but more likely I won't. It's not like I have been overwhelmed by comments to my previous posts.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

About Etymology and Misusing "Enormity"

English is a delightful language with a rich history. Its influences include ancient Greek Latin--and its Romantic offspring, especially French--and various Germanic languages going back to the Angles, Saxons, and other Germanic nations who conquered England (literally "Land of the Angles"). Minor additions from Hebrew , Old Norse, and even Arabic have made themselves a part of the lexicon. Individual words from dozens--perhaps most--other languages also roll comfortably off our tongues.

What follows is a brief--excruciatingly brief--look at how the English language has borrowed from other languages. I will conclude, however, with a look at a particular error in usage--an error based upon etymological ignorance.

The ancient Greek contribution is most plain in many of our medical and scientific terms, words as
photograph--literally "light painting" or "light writing" --hemophiliac--literally "blood lover" ). All of our phobias (e.g., agoraphobia--"fear of public places") are ancient Greek, as are our --ologies (e.g., psychology--"logic or study of the mind").

Latin is similarly important to medicine and science. Ars medicina is the "art of healing," and science, from scientia, literally means "knowledge." Latin is also the language of the law. If you're ever arrested, you will thank the framers of our Constitution for ensuring the writ of habeus corpus--writing (i.e. court order) to show "
that you have the body [the subject person under detention]"--otherwise you can be kept imprisoned indefinitely without a trial. The abbreviations i.e. and e.g., which I use frequently, are from Latin.

Both ancient Greek and Latin show up in regular words: hydration, democracy, and hypocrite (to name only a few) are Greek; dictator, aquatic, automatic, benefit even et cetera are Latin. Even new forms of expression base themselves often in these ancient languages, especially
modern additions owing to technical advances (who used the word "text"--a word formed from the Latin noun textus-- as a verb twenty years ago?).

French and Germanic influences are everywhere. Most every day English words come from the period dating from when the Norman French conquered the Anglo-Saxons of England and imposed their (Latin based) language.

I live in a house. My wife's Austrian relatives, who obviously speak German, live in a haus. French is so closely tied to English that I use French phrases without even thinking about it: (e.g., bon appétit, à la carte, c'est la vie). Many of our Latin words came to us through French variations. I say cathedral, and Pierre says cathédrale. Both of us mean "large church." Cicero, however, used the word cathedra for "seat," and this is where our French-based usage derives, for Ecclesiastical Latin adopted cathedra to identify a bishop's "seat." Of course English isn't the only language to borrow. The Latin cathedra is from the Ancient Greek kathedra (καθέδρα).
I bid farewell by saying "Goodbye," a variation of the Middle English "God be with ye." God from the Germanic Gott. Be may be related to the Germanic sie--I say may be because I don't know it as a fact. With obviously comes from the Germanic mitt, and ye--or you--from the German du.

So an English-speaker says "Goodbye," meaning "God be with you,"which translates directly into the German Gott sie mit dir. Dir is the object form of the subject du, but in English you stays the same in its subject and object forms. If the German did similarly, "God be with you" would translate into "Gott sie mitt du." This common English expression is clearly Germanic in origin.

But what strikes me by our expression "Goodbye"--rooted in "God be with you," is that almost the exact same expression is used to say farewell in Spanish and French--both of which are most influenced by Latin.

Many of our words and phrases are not just verbally borrowed in the sense of similar words, but even our idioms cross over.

I say "God be with you," but Juan says "Adios"--to God--and Jean Claude Van Damme says "Adieu" (just before he knocks me out with a round-house--or is that roundhaus?).

Most of our Spanish words originated in Latin. Nonetheless, there's some cross over with German (I presume due to the Gothic invasions/settlements). Guerrilla means "little war," which we use with a bit of redundancy in "Guerrilla war" ("Little war-war"?). The Spanish Guerra (don't pronounce the "G"), meaning "war," is from the High German werra or middle Dutch warre.

The Latin influence is similar in Italian. If you've been classically trained to play an instrument, then you know more than a few Italian words and expressions.

From Hebrew we have amen, hallelujah, and other religious terms.

Yiddish, a fusion of languages including German and Hebrew, gives us schmuck, schlemiel, schlimazel (but not
Hasenpfeffer Incorporated).

Even non-Western languages have found places in our speech. If I'm watching a football game, and I note that number 82 rammed into the receive team's wedge as a kamikaze, I've used a Japanese word. Kamikaze means "divine wind," but it was the title applied to Japanese pilots who sacrificed their lives by crashing bomb-laden planes into American ships. In English, we use the word kamikaze in the latter, historical but non-literal sense.

And it is in this regard that I finally make my point. Using kamikaze in a way that ignores a personal disregard for one's safety is not appropriate. In the football example, my use of the word kamikaze is hyperbolic. While number 82 may indeed have been risking his health, he was neither homicidal nor suicidal. It's a fine line I'm walking when I make such exaggerations, for I run the risk of diluting an otherwise strong and specific word.

What's next? I remark that Jeff Gordon win races because he drives like a kamikaze? I use kamikaze to describe my dog chasing a rabbit?

Before long, the word becomes merely a synonym for reckless or recklessly. Later still, it may simply be another way of saying quick or quickly.

This is exactly what happened to the word awesome, a word that we use nowadays interchangeably with cool or great and the like. Nonetheless, the word is rooted in awe, which means to overwhelm with reverence and dread. To awe is to inspire respect and fear. It's not simply an exaggerated word meaning "impress." We stand in awe of God because God is awesome. In one word, awesome, we confess that God is great and fearsome--to the extent that we have no further modifiers. Something is awesome when it is so magnificent, so wonderful, so great that no words or descriptions suffice.Similarly, something is awful when no other word or words will adequately describe its iniquity or foulness.

Yet the last time you used awesome, you probably meant hardly more than "really neat."

That's what happens to words and language when people do not use them properly. We think in words. Your reactions to these stated opinions are now forming themselves into words, and you can hear those words in your mind. Maybe you've even muttered a few under your breath. Therefore, whatever weakens the language weakens our ability to think. As our words mean less, so do our thoughts.

When you see a person butchering the language, know that he is butchering your ability to think abstractly. He is engaged actively in a quest to reduce us to a lower order of animal.

Then again, I'm most likely not being fair. If all you've ever heard is a bastardization of a word, then how can I blame you for it? Well, you're reading this, so now you know. Our words have meaning, and sometimes those meanings reach far back into history. Knowing this, you must be careful.

Recently, an article in the Detroit Free Press misused the word "enormity."

Regarding Hansen Clarke's victory over Carolyn "Cheeks" Kilpatrick, a supposedly literate and educated journalist wrote,
Twelve hours after a stunning upset of incumbent U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, a weary and emotional Hansen Clarke began to feel the enormity of what he accomplished Tuesday. [emphasis added]

Above, the author uses "enormity" to express the importance (or enormousness) of Clark's election: "a weary and emotional Hansen Clarke began to feel the enormity of what he accomplished."

Enormity, however, means "profound wickedness." It is not rooted in enormous, and should not be used to express magnitude; rather it is related to normitivity (relating to standards or morals) it's Latin original enormitatem, meaning "a divergence from standards (i.e. morals)."

I do not think that the author means to say that what Clarke has done is wicked, so it should be revised to "the enormousness of what he accomplished" or "the magnitude of what he accomplished."

But it won't be revised. Most people will think that I'm merely a whiner. I knew what the author meant, so I should just leave it at that, right?

For those who hold that opinion, I have a pair of words. And although they're based on German words, most people preface them with "Pardon my French."


Monday, August 02, 2010

About Holocaust Deniers

It makes me laugh--but not happily--when I Google keywords such as "Holocaust Hoax" and come up with websites that explain away the holocaust without a single footnote.

It's as if they expect the average dimwit simply to accept their view of the world. Thank God neither American conservatives nor liberals rely upon such sources...

All I've learned from anti-Semitic websites is that anti-Semites are either semi-literate or flat our liars.

Footnotes are good. They prove research and support argument.

Bill of Rights